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MRF August 2018 Update

By Andy Kelly

Highway Automation

The first of five National Workshops, called the “Nation Dialogue on Highway Automation,” was held by the Federal Highway Administration, at the end of June, in Philadelphia, PA. This workshop dealt with Planning and Policy. Attendees were to consider issues relevant for the planning and policy community, such as how automation impacts travel demands, land use, infrastructure investment, right of way use, policy barriers and other topics.

In attendance, were over 200 federal, state, and local transportation people from all over the county including planners, engineers, other government personnel, a few vendors, two motorcyclists, myself, and Mike Sayre from the AMA.

There were also a lot of guest speakers including Leslie Richards, Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Brandye Hendrickson, Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

The basic idea of the first day was an exchange of ideas on policy and regulation dealing with autonomous technology. The second day was discussion of implementation of policies and regulations.

The attendees sat at tables of 10, led by one or two facilitators from the USDOT. The groups discussed questions about highway automation. After approximately two hours of discussion in the individual groups, someone from each group stood up and explained to the audience, their groups thoughts on the question given to them. One problem for me was when different people would get up to give their explanations they would use acronyms in every sentence. Some I had heard before but when it came to policy acronyms I would get lost, I was wondering if it was a secret code.

There were some great points made in the discussion. Examples as follows:
1. If autonomous vehicles are on the road, being controlled by GPS, and not shifting around in the lane, will the highway get ruts like a dirt road?
2. If heavy trucks are platooning, running just a few feet apart, will bridges and the whole infrastructure start falling apart quicker than it already is due to the excessive weight of the vehicles driving closely together?
3. If you are in an autonomous vehicle and the system fails, and an accident happens, who will be financially liable- the manufacturer or the owner of the vehicle?
4. How to avoid a cyber-attack and cyber security on all autonomous vehicles.
5. Another idea that came up a few times was data from different systems and technology being shared by manufacturers to each other and making sure that each system will work with one another.

A few things touched on during the sessions, was the fact that by the time these bureaucrats suggest policy to Legislators and the Legislators make laws dealing with Highway Automation the industry will be years ahead of that legislation. My personal impression is that most of these officials don’t care what the average person thinks about themselves and autonomous vehicles. A statement was made saying “every vehicle on the road will be autonomous within 20-30 years. I responded by saying, “the thought sends shivers up my spine and what happens to personal freedom.” I did not get an answer. Also, on the second day I was asked how I found out about this event, and why I was there? My answer was to make sure it was safe for all road users, especially motorcyclists.

This is something we all need to get involved with and make sure our concerns are addressed and surpassed.

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