Automation of the freight transportation sector is evolving rapidly, and the developments are posing challenges and opportunities for state and local agencies. For instance, much of the impetus toward trucking automation is coming from the private sector, including technology companies as well as trucking firms. Their expectations are that the public sector will maintain or build infrastructure, and enact regulatory changes that enable any new technology to enter the market. Before this can happen, significant government action will be required to create the operational, infrastructure, and regulatory environment conducive to known automation technology, with the flexibility to incorporate unforeseen technologies.
There are several near-term freight system automation developments. The relative ease of automating limited-access urban highway is encouraging new operational concepts where distribution centers and warehouses are located adjacent to highway access points in anticipation of scenarios where drivers deliver trucks to an access point, followed by an automated line haul run to access points where drivers once again take over. There is widespread experimentation in first- and last-mile automated freight delivery, and already local governments are struggling to keep up with legal, regulatory, safety, and land use issues. Multimodal environments, including rail terminals, inland ports, sea ports, and airports present different operating environments for the introduction of the same types of automation technologies.
Research is needed to enable state and local agencies to determine questions that must be addressed and decisions that are required regarding automated freight transportation movement technologies, and to identify the information and data required to guide those decisions.
The objective of this research is to develop a decision framework for state and local agencies to (1) identify, evaluate, and address the potential impacts (both positive and negative) of connected and automated freight transportation movement technologies on policies and practices; and (2) identify ways in which state and local agencies can enable automated freight transportation technologies. The decision framework should be simple, scalable, and sustainable. At a minimum, the research should also address the following topics:
Decisions and questions that state and local agencies have about automated freight transportation movement technologies, and the information and data required to guide those decisions;
Description of the applicable freight supply chains and modes and description of the technologies included in the framework;
Challenges and opportunities for state and local agencies;
Public sector planning and programming implications; and
Impacts on all modes of freight transportation in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
While the decision framework should be directly applicable to most situations, it should also outline decision-making processes and criteria that would assist agencies in identifying flexible solutions.
The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can be realistically accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposer’s current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.
A kick-off teleconference of the research team and NCHRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution. The work plan proposed must be divided into tasks, with each task described in detail. The tasks must be divided into two phases. Phase I will consist of information and planning tasks, culminating with the submission of an interim report. The interim report will describe the work completed in the Phase I tasks, an updated work plan for the Phase II tasks, an outline of the decision framework, and the plan for the peer exchange. A face-to-face interim meeting with NCHRP will be scheduled to discuss the interim report. Work on Phase II tasks shall not begin until the updated work plan is approved by NCHRP. The project schedule shall include 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the interim report. Phase II shall consist of the development of the decision framework and a peer exchange at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA, to review and critique the decision framework. The NCHRP panel is seeking insights of proposers on how they will manage the workshop and the expected outcomes.
The final deliverables, at a minimum, will include (1) the decision framework for state and local agencies to (a) identify, evaluate, and address the potential impacts (both positive and negative) of connected and automated freight transportation movement technologies on policies and practices and (b) identify ways in which state and local agencies can enable automated freight transportation technologies; (2) a final report documenting the entire project, incorporating all other specified deliverables of the research; (3) an electronic presentation of the decision framework that can be tailored for specific audiences and is suitable for training; (4) an executive summary targeted for decision makers; (5) recommendations on needs and priorities for additional research; and (6) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note B for additional information). Proposers may recommend additional deliverables to support the project objective.
STATUS: Research underway.