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Connected and Automated Vehicles

The TMACOG Transportation Summit held March 30 in Toledo included a keynote presentation on the fast-developing technology that is leading to driverless vehicles. (Click on the titles to see other presentations here.) Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) fall into the transportation category of Intelligent Transportation Systems. For a long time, ITS has described separate but related systems: road signs that warn of accidents ahead or in-cab communications. CAV is a whole new level of interconnectedness that has the potential to vastly improve safety on roadways.

The innovations are being driven forward on several fronts. The three speakers pointed to the financial investment being poured into research from the legacy automobile companies in the U.S. They also pointed to federal rule making and government stimulus that are pushing innovation in the CAV world. Looking at these factors and more, the speakers made a compelling case that driverless cars are coming and sooner than we think. Jim Barbaresso, HNTB fellow and senior vice president, Intelligent Transportation Systems, said that if he was a young engineer, he would be throwing himself into the technology.

Tony Yacobucci, chief engineer, Ohio Turnpike, cited sobering statistics: Americans crashed 60 million times in 2014, causing 2.3 million injuries and 32,600 deaths. Taking human drivers out of the transportation picture has the potential to drastically reduce accidents while making people more productive and less stressed. Experts estimate that human error is responsible for more than 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents. Of those accidents, it’s estimated that 41 percent are caused by distraction. Barbaresso described driving as a task that in itself is a distraction from life and from work. He also noted that automated vehicles are polite vehicles: they allow cars to merge, they follow all speed limits, they don’t try to sprint through yellow lights.

Driverless cars will improve lives for aging drivers, blind adults, others who are unable to drive due to disabling conditions, and for people who just don’t want to drive. Many millennials are delaying learning to drive and are not buying cars at the same pace as their parents.

“Connectivity, automation, and electrification will be game-changers for industry. These transformative technologies will create challenges and disruption, but also opportunities for our industry if we have the vision to invent our future.”
Jim Barbaresso, HNTB Fellow and Senior Vice President, Intelligent Transportation Systems

Automation will also lead to more efficient transportation. Cars and trucks that are communicating will require less space between vehicles and avoid slowdowns. There will be many fewer accidents tying up roadways. Parking will change. Currently, a family that owns a car leaves it parked about 95 percent of the time, at home, at work, or in the parking lot of the grocery store. CAV will lead to on-demand transportation. The speakers at the Transportation Summit drew a picture of circulating vehicles that collect and deliver people and goods as needed.

According to the speakers, first we will see incremental change that will build confidence in the technology. People are already choosing vehicles that parallel park themselves, brake when they sense a slowdown ahead, and signal the driver about the location of nearby vehicles. As people gain confidence and see the safety improvements, industry will be rolling out ever more connected vehicles and building the needed infrastructure. Matt Smith, ITS administrator with Michigan DOT, pointed to red light violation warnings as a next big thing. Smart signal broadcasting from the traffic signal will warn vehicles that they are approaching too fast, that the signal is about to change. The driver vehicle interface will alert the driver to brake, or maybe brake for the driver.

Speakers agreed that the first application of driverless vehicles is likely to be semi-trucks moving in platoons in designated lanes. The freight industry has compelling reasons to invest in technology including a persistent shortage of drivers and the projected increase in road congestion. The industry is already heavily invested in technology – in warehousing with robots storing and retrieving goods and in movement of shipping containers from boats, to trains, to roads. The technology that has already transformed freight movement at ports and warehouses is being extended to the challenge of road transportation.

“We’re on the cusp of a transformation in transportation, driven by advances in vehicle connectivity and automation. The changes will be disruptive.”
Jim Barbaresso, HNTB Fellow and Senior Vice President, Intelligent Transportation Systems

Tony Yacobucci of the Ohio Turnpike Commission said that the infrastructure of the turnpike makes it a perfect testing ground for driverless technology. There is a tight fiber network and lane markings are painted for optimal sensing. The existing service plazas and maintenance yards will support experimental development. OTTO, a driverless semi-truck, has already been rolling on the Ohio Turnpike. The founder of OTTO predicts fleets of self-driving trucks in the next year.

Matt Smith with Michigan DOT said that we can’t build our way out of congestion. Technology is going to be the solution to transportation, not more and more pavement. He described the Michigan plan for a core area of expertise in the development and deployment of Connected Vehicle systems. Working in partnership with automotive manufacturers such as GM and Ford, the University of Michigan, the Road Commission for Oakland County, and a number of other partners, MDOT has set a vision for a “Smart Corridor” going through a large segment of southeast Michigan, centered along the freeway and surrounding arterial network in the metropolitan Detroit area. This corridor goes through the heart of Michigan’s automotive and technology development area. This effort represents a multi-year investment. The Michigan vision also fits into the regional and national connected vehicle environment envisioned and being developed by the U.S. DOT.

From left, Matt Smith, ITS program administrator with Michigan DOT,
Tony Yacobucci, chief engineer, Ohio Turnpike Commission,and
Jim Barbaresso, HNTB fellow and senior vice president, Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Keynote moderator Lissa Guyton of WTVG 13 ABC, and one of the
three keynote speakers, Jim Barbaresso, HNTB Fellow and Senior
Vice President, Intelligent Transportation Systems.



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