Conclusion of 2015 TAMU report on preparing for AVs
A major implication of the Revolutionary scenario was that the public sector will have to react very quickly to what is actually happening rather than taking the time to examine what could happen. “We really don’t know what this is going to look like. We don’t want to try and anticipate, we are going to be reactive.”
One important issue is how it might change long-term investment strategies. “Are we putting federal funds for transportation in the right places? Should we be funding BRT [bus rapid transit] and light rail?” “It gets political very quickly.” “Conservatives think we won’t need money for transit or raising taxes to build more roads.” “How should we deal with politics (of the anti-transit versus anti-auto camps)?” In this environment, agencies would be making decisions under high uncertainty. “No one knows exactly how this will play out, what the biggest issues will be, or how to address them.”
There was also the concern that the transition period would be difficult, lacking time to prepare for it. “Mixed fleets—will there be a lot of upfront acceptance or will it be like electric vehicles, with consumers waiting for the charging infrastructure and governments not willing to invest in it?” “We would need to get everything ready for the beta versions and then see it all change.” Maintenance challenges would surface quickly. “Maintaining good consistent striping with our weather patterns is a challenge.” “The biggest issues are markings, signage.” “Continuing to maintain our road with special attention to striping making the roadway visually apparent to machines will be a challenge.”
Other implications related to changes in how the transportation system will be managed. This technology will enable us to “squeeze more capacity out of system, rather than building our way out of congestion.” “We have all these barrier-separated HOV lanes, I could see that becoming an AV-only lane. At some point it gets reversed to where the main lanes are AV only and the HOV then becomes the human-operated vehicle only.” Another person mentioned that the agency would have to have “a much higher standard for maintenance, different design standards, and signal design methods.”
The Revolutionary scenario could force major changes in the organizations, such as culture shift or role identification. “Challenge us to interact with our customer in a new and better way.” “We would need to define what our role would be.” “Change from road builder mode to efficiency mode.” “We also need to think about our role as a “full service transportation provider. Will we still be responsible for deploying this infrastructure or just acting to facilitate the private sector in getting all of this technology out there?” Other individuals mentioned with different phrasing that personnel and staffing would need to change. “We will need people who know how these technologies work and how they can be integrated into operations. We will have new professions integrated into our workforce and we will also need training on how to get our existing operations to interact with new functions.”
STRATEGIES TO PREPARE FOR FUTURE DEPLOYMENTS
To gain an understanding of how state and local agencies are preparing for the advent of AV/CV technologies, the interview included three questions:
Has your agency developed any near term strategies for proactively addressing any implications of AV and or CV deployments in your jurisdiction(s)?
Are there any policy or planning actions that your agency could implement to prepare for this scenario?
Is there anything that your agency could do to shape or influence the scenario coming to fruition?
In the interview discussions with state DOTs and local and regional agencies, common themes began to emerge. While there were some differences in the interview responses between state DOTs and other agencies, there were many commonalities as they begin to address the challenges inherent in implementing AV/CV technologies.
The analysis of interview responses from state DOTs yielded commonalities, referred to herein as Emerging Themes, where responses were shared across a significant number of participant states. Also presented here are Interesting Statements, where a response that was considered noteworthy was received from one or at most two respondents.
Several DOTs mentioned that a primary task in their state was to identify and address any legal restrictions in state or local law that might impact AV/CV implementation. “We scrubbed all of our existing laws to see if there is anything restricting.” Some mentioned that the policy and legal framework must be developed. “I think we’re doing a good job of staying on top of policy—we are working with the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles], looking at policy in state legislation that would need to be changed.” A few were looking to the federal agencies to provide guidance. “What we tell people is we’re in a wait and see mode. We’re going to wait for the Feds to tell us what we need to do.” On the other hand, some are actively choosing a wait and see mode. “We don’t plan to implement any policies pertaining to AV/CV that might limit our ability to be flexible as technology changes. Changes in policy right now would be premature.” “We are keeping an eye on what other states are doing.”
Several state DOTs shared that they find it most effective to prepare for AV/CV implementation by organizing formal initiatives, such as the creation of working groups, steering committees, or task forces that are charged with the development of roadmaps and/or AV/CV strategic plans. These initiatives involve internal and external stakeholders, including the private sector, public sector agencies at all levels, and universities and research laboratories. “We need to continue with ongoing education and awareness building among all agencies. We’ve had discussions with rail and transit and the office of attorney general, secretary of technology.” “Think getting the conversations going now is what is needed.” Some DOTs have partnered with universities to
develop implementation plans. “We’ve partnered with [university] to do an analysis with a timetable for implementation by 2040.”
One individual mentioned undertaking an impacts analysis. “We’ve identified high level areas…likely to be impacted: transportation system planning, cultural and workforce readiness, transportation data, strategic investments, systems and technology, legal and regulatory implementation and collaboration with others. For each, we are identifying a series of expected impacts.” In terms of planning, another individual also mentioned working on “getting AV/CV language in your 25-year state plan…ensures that money is programmed for that activity if it is needed in the future.”
At least one state DOTs is preparing by implementing statewide fiber network to provide the necessary architecture. Some DOTs (not interviewed) have been on this path for years for traditional ITS; the initiative started before the advent of wireless data networks and private investments in fiber. However, there were many other DOTs who stated that they do not plan to implement any changes until they know where the technology is going. For these DOTs, the need for flexibility to react to changes was important. State DOTs seemed to be evenly divided on this. “From a policy perspective we need to be looking at what technologies exist today, and as we continue to build and maintain the roadway system we need to make sure we have flexibility for the system to accommodate these systems… If we are doing new traffic lights we should be looking to put in systems that accommodate future technologies; however, we don’t want to invest in systems that will soon be out-of-date.”
Active involvement in the national dialogue on AV/CV implementation was commonly viewed as a way for state DOTs to stay abreast of emerging issues and challenges in the field. Conferences and symposia provide opportunities for many state DOTs to be a part of the national discussion. Membership and active involvement in such initiatives as the V2I Deployment Coalition (led by ITS America, AASHTO, ITE, and FHWA), AASHTO’s Connected Vehicle Task Force (made up of state DOTs and two Canadian provinces), CV pooled fund initiatives, steering committees for conferences, and the like were also mentioned as avenues for education and discussion. “We need to remain engaged in events like this symposium [interview conducted at the TRB Automated Vehicle Symposium] to make sure that we know what is going on and that we have a voice in this development. We need to keep talking to AASHTO and USDOT about our state’s needs in order to make sure our needs are being addressed. It’s not that we are any different from other states, but we have an obligation, since we are on the front line, to tell AASHTO and DOT what we need.” “We want to have a feel of the pulse of what’s happening and be able to influence if we can.”
Many of the interviewees also indicated that their DOT is competing for federal deployment funds. These programs were seen as providing an excellent source of funding for AV/CV implementation projects. Furthermore, being involved in the pilots enabled the states to educate their staff about AV/CV requirements. “[We are trying to] insert ourselves into the mix earlier rather than later.”
Almost all DOT interviewees recognized a need to address their workforce’s ability to manage changing technologies, enormous data sets (their collection and analysis), and associated operations concern. There may be a need to staff up ITS groups in their organizations, and
address the need for enhanced IT/data management and operations groups. Additionally, field technicians will have to be more tech savvy, with a different skill set than is currently common.
Building more partnerships with private sector/OEMs will be needed. Increased interaction between vehicles and infrastructure will necessitate more understanding and coordination between the public and private sector. “Getting involved with OEMs could definitely shape where this goes. We should insert ourselves into the mix earlier rather than waiting.” “We are very interested in partnering with the private sector. We could support a partnership.”
Several agencies stated a need to educate decision makers. For example, one DOT indicated that a funding increase for needed congestion management met with resistance because “Connected vehicles will solve that.” Respondents stated that it is important that elected officials and other decision makers understand what AV/CV can and cannot do. “What we need to be doing is making sure that policy makers know what is going on and educating the public.”
One state DOT that is responsible for driver’s licensing in their state is looking into how AV/CV might affect licensing requirements. For example, if a car can park itself, will the ability to parallel park be necessary? If legislative changes are necessary to implement AV/CV, they will need to address driver’s licensing requirements at that time as well. Another individual said his state “could be proactive legislatively if we knew what it was that was going to happen.”
Local Transportation Agencies
Many of the interviewees from local agencies are involved with their state DOTs through ongoing formal AV/CV initiatives. They serve on DOT-organized groups such as task forces and working groups, along with representatives from the private sector and other transportation stakeholders, and seek to be a part of the discussion. “What I am doing so far is staying aware and informed as to what is going on and who the major players are.”
State and local transportation agencies noted that involvement with the private sector is important because “so much relies on the private sector and the development of the technology.” “We do have some very important companies and key players in this area—we could be more intentional about working with them.” Many are actively seeking partnerships with the private sector on early deployment opportunities. “We don’t intend to take the lead on that but we will make our system known to the industry as an attractive space for testing of vehicles. We have a lot of sensors, a lot of cameras. We can track vehicles with transponders. We have a lot of useful information and could be a useful partner.” “We should be more intentional about looking at land uses around the region for opportunities where Level 3 and Level 4 could be deployed, like college campuses, retirement communities.”
Several respondents stated that they are planning to include AV/CV in current and future planning efforts but are not sure how to go about it. There is widespread uncertainty regarding what the local role will be in AV/CV implementation, and how responsibility will be shared. “We need to get AV/CV on the planning radar. We need to educate officials and keep up with
technology.” “We need research and help in running scenarios (not every MPO needs to run the same scenarios)—we can aggregate to figure out what needs to be done in unique transportation models.” “We need to have our Board members on board with AV/CV and well educated about it. Decision makers need to be knowledgeable.”
Many expressed concerns about financial resources. For jurisdictions that are struggling to maintain the infrastructure they have, there was concern with how they will come up with the money to implement AV/CV. “Our last plan update had 70 percent of our funding going to maintenance and operations. More will have to go to this to facilitate deployment.” Another financial concern is finding the resources to geocode signs on roads under their jurisdiction, although it was also viewed as an opportunity to use AV/CV “as an argument for the sign inventory and geocoding.”
The implementation of AV/CV could have significant impact on planning for tolling agencies. They are collaborating with research labs and the private sector, monitoring what CV means for a payment platform, putting together procurement for a toll collection system, and working with research labs on new technologies. A question raised was whether toll agencies need to offer dedicated lanes during the transition period. “Our preference would be to have most of the vehicle fleet turn over quickly—without us having to reconfigure the roadway.”
AV/CV could facilitate narrower lanes, making more room for amenities like bike lanes, or less pavement. This would impact planning for the roadway network. Implementation of AV/CV could also completely change parking requirements. “For example, if a smart vehicle has already dropped off its passengers, parking facilities would no longer require room for doors to swing open, making room for more slots.”
Tying AV/CV implementation to economic competitiveness could be a way to justify the cost of implementation. “We have an economic development arm that includes citizen groups working on economic competitive strategies. How is this region going to position itself for economic development from this technology?” One interviewee stated that he has been told by private sector AV/CV interests that “all that will be needed from operators is good pavement markings and lots of data. We (the agency) can facilitate that by running our roads and modifying them to make them readable, and providing data.”
POTENTIAL IMPACTS ON ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Even though our interview sample represented organizations that were known to have taken an interest in AV/CV, none of the organizations indicated that there was a specific position in the agency that deals with the topic. Most indicated that there was a point person on technology issues, which includes AV/CV, but no one dedicated to the specific topic. Several of our interviewees mentioned that they were the designated AV/CV person in the organization because they were just interested in the topic. Many said that the focus was at the middle-management level and not “high up in the organization.”
Recognizing that future implementation of AV/CV technologies may cause institutional changes within state, local, and regional transportation agencies, the participants were asked to respond to the question “How might the mission, responsibilities, and organizational structure of your agency evolve under this scenario?” Although the question was staged to address the most likely scenario (in their opinion), the resulting changes to organizational structure should be the same regardless of scenario. As before, there were some differences in the responses from state DOTs and other organizations.
The consensus of interviewees from both state DOTs and local and regional agencies was that the mission of their organizations would not change, and that the benefits of AV/CV would aid them in accomplishing their current stated mission.
A few agencies are in a “wait and see” mode in terms of changes in organizational responsibilities in response to AV/CV implementation. “We want to get a handle on what the impacts will be before determining how we change. However, this will be a big issue for the agency.” “Aren’t to that point yet. That could change going forward as we get further along.” Most state DOT interviewees noted many potential changes. For instance, there could be a substantive shift in organizational focus from what they described as “the big three”—design, construction, and maintenance—to operations. “A new model could require new management efforts beyond the simple model we have now of building and maintaining roads.” An exception is the maintenance of pavement markings and signage, which will become much more critical with AV/CV implementation.
Data management, including collecting data, storing data and analyzing data, would become much more involved. The skill sets for traffic engineers, operations staff, and field technicians would have to change, with associated costs for training. All of these changes will affect a dynamic shift in how resources are allocated. “If there is roadway or roadside infrastructure for CV we might have more responsibilities there with the installation, operation, and maintenance of that equipment. We also might have to do better with our lane markings. Doing all of this is above and beyond what we are resourced for right now.” The greater emphasis on operations also creates a different sort of skill set. “What we really need is people with expertise in operations management. We need statisticians and mathematicians. It is a systems operations focus.” There is a perception that the private sector will be taking on more of what has
traditionally been a public role, for example in data management and collection. “The private sector will likely take on more roles that were traditionally public in nature.” This is already happening in some states, notably Utah and Florida.
A few individuals noted that safety might become less important in their organizations because of the expected safety benefits of AVs and CVs. “Maybe reduce number of traffic management centers (TMCs)—reduce the number of safety maintenance vehicles roaming the road.” “I could see safety staff responsible for coming up with safety projects diminish a lot.”
Local and regional transportation agencies noted several potential changes to their responsibilities. Toll agencies noted that they could experience an increase in “fleet” customers, such as Uber and commercial fleets, and that this could change their business model. But in general, toll agencies saw themselves as needing to be at the forefront of technology, so in that respect responsibilities would not change with advent of AV/CV technologies. “The mission is to stay in front of the technology. Tolling brings a lot of technology (e.g., cameras, computers, and integrated corridor management) anyway. So we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new technologies, unlike traditional highway construction, which is more concrete and steel.”
While tolling agencies were the exception, local and regional transportation agencies will need more technically oriented people, people able to manage data, and more staff in maintenance and operations. The skill sets necessary will be more expensive to obtain, which will impact personnel budgets. One local agency stated that since many safety responsibilities will be addressed by AV/CV, their safety team might be reduced in size. Cybersecurity issues are also a concern and must be addressed. To address security concerns, one agency mentioned that ITS may need to be independent of other systems, which would adversely impact the ability of communities to be fully “connected.”
Supporting infrastructure, including signage and traffic signals, will need to work in concert with AV/CV. Many of the agencies are challenged by maintaining the infrastructure they have, so their potential responsibility to support AV/CV implementation is of concern. Others saw their responsibilities relating to their infrastructure as changing. “Depending on how these develop we may not [be] responsible for operating our [traffic] lights. We are responsible for assigning priority at intersections and doing traffic zones, etc. That responsibility could shift if we don’t keep up. We could fundamentally change.” Cities and MPOs saw an opportunity to have more bike lanes because of an ability to decrease lane widths, and therefore a possible ability to increase their focus on community livability.
There were two schools of thought pertaining to changes in organizational structure. There were those who felt that major organizational changes would not occur due to AV/CV implementation versus those who thought a new division would have to be developed that is devoted to this new concept. The latter thought it could not be buried in ITS or operations, while the former thought that tweaks of existing groups might be all that would be necessary. “There may be additional expertise added in this area within operations, IT, safety, and design groups.” “More of an evolutionary change of some functions than a new structure.”
Both groups mentioned that skill sets for existing groups will evolve, as well. One state DOT noted that an interdisciplinary group with representation across the DOT might be required, including people from data management, ITS/operations, maintenance, and safety. A couple of outlier agencies said that they are restructuring right now. “Still in upper management, but we are restructuring to be more nimble to meet these new emerging technologies.” “We are evolving already into an agency that manages the system rather than building it.”
IMPLICATIONS FOR PLANNING FOR AV/CV DEPLOYMENT
People often say “the future is now” to describe bleeding edge technologies that are available today. While AV and CV technologies are still on their respective paths to full deployment, they do have implications for state and local transportation agencies now.
Transportation agencies tend to move forward deliberately and slowly in reaction to change. Looking backward at ITS implementation activities within state and local transportation agencies, researchers see that over the past two decades transportation agencies have used ITS technologies to monitor traffic condition, control traffic flow, and inform travelers. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report describes deployment of ITS nationwide as “slow” and “spotty” given various sets of planning, funding, knowledge/skills, and coordination challenges (GAO 2012). One might view AV/CV implementation among state and local agencies as following a similar model. Both sets of technologies require agencies to shift focus from planning, construction, and maintenance of roadways to planning the operations of the system.
However, state and local agencies are faced with a new paradigm in technology deployment, particularly with AVs. With ITS, implementation was largely under the purview and control of the state and local transportation agencies. USDOT promoted and supported ITS use through training, technical assistance, information sharing, and some funding. But state and local agencies were in control of when and how the technology would be deployed.
On the contrary, AV technology deployment—whether evolutionary or revolutionary—is driven by the OEMs and the technology firms. AV is being driven by market forces in a way that ITS development was not. Like Uber taxis, consumer demand may place AVs on public roadways while the regulatory and policy issues are still being worked out. The private sector does not necessarily need the public sector’s involvement to implement. As one of our interviewees noted, “There are touchpoints where the public sector can participate but it is not necessary.” So, while the natural tendency is for agencies to take a “wait and see” approach, that approach does not forestall the need to initiate some planning activities now. AV is going to happen.
The future may be now, but the future is also highly uncertain. As the scenarios presented in this report indicate, even in the AV realm there are multiple plausible futures. Google or another technology firm could disrupt the automobile industry with a self-driving vehicle or the OEMs will continue making and marketing incremental improvements in automation. There is disagreement among the interviewees regarding how close the industry (whether Google or the OEMs) is to self-driving vehicles. Some thought we were “not near as close as Google wants us to think” because of all of the public policy issues (i.e., liability, privacy, and surveillance). Others were of the opinion that this was “progressing a lot faster than the typical policy maker or planner is used to—things happening in [the] next 10 to 15 years.” While fleet turnover was seen as a hurdle to market penetration, others could envision a swift change. “The question is, will this be an aftermarket technology or will it require complete vehicle turnover to see penetration?” Regardless of the exact timing, since it will happen eventually, state and local agencies need to figure out what it will mean for them, specifically.
CV technology is perceived as being more like the ITS model of implementation. The public sector has more responsibility and control in the CV realm. The people we spoke with were split as to whether AV needs CV to “really provide value to the system.” There were a few agencies that considered CV as the evolutionary precursor to AV and, thus, were ready to implement as much supporting infrastructure (such as fiber) as possible. Others did not want to make infrastructure changes and then be hampered with a “Betamax technology.”
The OEMs are perceived as having a larger role in V2V than in V2I. For this reason, there is greater certainty among the interviewees that V2V will happen. “V2V will certainly happen because it will be industry driven.” “Most of the intelligence will be in cars themselves, not on the roadside.” There are both opportunities and challenges with V2V for state and local transportation agencies. Some are workforce development issues; others are data issues. There was lack of consensus on the importance of DSRC for the vehicle connectivity. The standards process may be too slow and other options (i.e., cellular, Bluetooth, or cloud-based) may overtake. On the other hand, there was uncertainty about if and how V2I would deploy mainly because of the costs of implementation. “CV is a quandary: We can’t maintain what we have, so how can we upgrade for CV?” Several of the local agencies envision a business model for V2I in which the private sector provides the equipment that would need to be deployed for V2I. In the AV realm, the private sector was seen as picking up most of the costs. As one DOT mentioned, “We don’t want to invest [to changes in infrastructure] and then see technology go the other direction. How do we address without stifling innovation?” An implication that could be drawn across several interviews was that if V2I were in place, it would be value added to AVs and V2V. But if it is not and if implementation is slow and spotty, then other technology solutions may leapfrog it.
What is clear in the interviews conducted for this study was the fact that transportation agency staff recognizes that now is a particularly dynamic and rapidly changing environment. Trying to predict the future so that today’s decisions will meet future needs is at best challenging. Given where we are today with AV/CV technologies, there are strategies that surfaced in our interviews that would be robust over a wide range of alternative futures. These are strategies that state and local transportation agencies could begin implementing now, to help them function effectively, no matter what surprises the future brings. A successful AV/CV implementation strategy might include the following elements:
A review of legislation and policies in place that could potentially impact the implementation of AV/CV technologies. For example, some states have found that there were laws and/or policies in place that would prohibit driverless technology, and have taken steps to address them.
The designation of a specific individual within the organization who has responsibility for AV/CV. If one person is responsible for implementation and for managing the program overall, it creates one contact point for a program that involves many internal and external organizations. This single contact is important for good coordination between stakeholders.
Participation in the national discussion on AV/CV. This participation may include such groups as the V2I Deployment Coalition (led by ITS America, AASHTO, ITE, and FHWA), the AASHTO Connected Vehicle Task Force (made up of state DOTs and two Canadian provinces), and CV pooled fund initiatives. Active participation can help
agencies stay up to date on developments in the field, aid in networking and building community, and avoid duplicative efforts.
The establishment of a working relationship with resources in the state or region with useful expertise, such as universities, UTCs, and national laboratories. They can be useful for information gathering, planning and strategic efforts, and assistance with early applications in the state/region. This has proven to be a successful model for several interviewees in this study.
The establishment of an internal group made up of people in affected groups across the transportation agency organization in order to develop a strategic plan or roadmap for implementation. These groups may include representation from management, operations, ITS, design, data management/information technology, maintenance, and others within the organization.
Establishment of an external group of stakeholders to assist in identifying and addressing issues and to serve as a sounding board for strategic plans/roadmaps. These stakeholders may include DOT representation, state and regional agencies, the private sector/OEMs, and universities and national labs. It is important for the success of strategic planning that it not be done in silos according to individual stakeholders, with each addressing its own interests only.
Outreach to state and local policy makers to familiarize and educate regarding AV/CV. It is important to get AV/CV on policy makers’ radar screens, given competing priorities. Also, there is much misinformation about the advent of these technologies that could lead to misinformed decisions about future investments.
Participation in competitions for federal deployment funding to gain “boots on the ground” experience.
The development of a plan for workforce development, as the skill sets will change for professionals within the DOT (including operations, IT, and data management) and field personnel.
The formulation of a strategy to address the financial challenges of implementation. This strategy may include how AV/CV would help with economic competitiveness and increased operational efficiency, as well as the more intuitive safety and environmental benefits. It would be advantageous to connect with private sector on economic development opportunities, and to be intentional about early deployment opportunities in the city, region, and/or state.