Resources Help Local Agencies Plan for CAV Roadway Needs

In a recently completed project, funded by the Local Road Research Board, researchers developed a reference tool and compiled a literature review that local agencies could use to anticipate the infrastructure needs of connected and automated vehicles. Agencies can use these resources to plan for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance activities.

What Was the Need?

Connected vehicles (CVs) communicate wirelessly with one another and with elements of the highway infrastructure, and automated vehicles (AVs) assume some responsibilities traditionally performed by drivers. These technologies, known collectively as CAVs, will require unique features from the highway infrastructure for navigation, sign reading, safety and other functions.

CAV implementation is expected to be widespread soon. Transportation agencies, which operate with budgets and facility plans that anticipate decades of service from infrastructure such as traffic signal control technology and signage, must anticipate the needs of CAV technologies.

“Local engineers can use this reference to make better planning and procurement decisions for investing in new infrastructure and personnel, and to inform constituents,” said John Hourdos, director, Minnesota Traffic Observatory, University of Minnesota.

Local agencies face particularly tight budgets and need to ensure expenditures meet as many long-term needs as possible. When spending $25,000 on a traffic signal controller and cabinet that is expected to provide 20+ years of service, an agency will want to make sure it is anticipating future needs, including those presented by CAVs and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication platforms.

Though certain technologies for sensors, cameras and communication may be predictable based on current trends among manufacturers, the infrastructure technologies that CAVs will rely upon have yet to be sorted out as manufacturers compete for consumer and regulatory acceptance.

What Was Our Goal?

MnDOT and the Local Road Research Board (LRRB) needed to investigate the current state of CAV development in industry and the expected technological platforms and needs such vehicles will require. A reference tool would be developed based on these results that local agencies could use to plan for infrastructure spending to meet CAV needs on local roadways.

What Did We Do?

Investigators conducted an extensive literature review of whitepapers, industry presentations and academic research on CAVs, the technologies they rely upon and the infrastructure implications of these technologies.

The research team then evaluated the technologies of currently available roadway infrastructure hardware. These findings were included in a survey of local agency infrastructure investment plans, turnaround plans for aging equipment and priorities of potential CAV applications in their infrastructure.

An illustration of an autonomous vehicle uniting with a connected vehicle to form a connected automated vehicle. Autonomous vehicles operate in isolation from other vehicles using internal sensors; connected vehicles communicate with nearby vehicles and infrastructure. Together, they leverage autonomous and connected vehicle capabilities.
Understanding the needs of CAV technologies is critical to local agencies as they plan for future infrastructure investments.

Data on CV and AV technological systems and needs were compiled, and researchers identified technologies that are currently used and others that are close to implementation. Recommendations for infrastructure planning and development were developed based on these findings.

What Did We Learn?

Results from the literature review were assembled separately from the study’s final report. The information on the trajectory of technological platforms expected to be a part of CAVs reflects a rapidly changing manufacturing sector and includes pilot studies in Florida, New York and Wyoming.

“This resource identifies the features currently being installed in cars and recommends the steps local agencies must take to be fully compatible with this technology,” said Debra Heiser, engineering director, City of St. Louis Park.

CAV technologies and platforms continue to evolve, making it difficult to clarify specific infrastructure needs. But investigators developed general recommendations for local agencies to use in readying themselves for the new technologies.

The research team developed an easily scannable matrix of infrastructure applications to accompany the more detailed descriptions in the report. This schematic details infrastructure, sensor and communication needs for each listed application, and projects equipment purchasing costs and potential installation, operational and maintenance costs.

Local agencies are encouraged to focus on the following recommendations to prepare for CAVs:

  • Maintain road markings for visibility (markings currently serve one to five years, depending on the material used).
  • Maintain clear road signage (currently south-facing signs are replaced every decade).
  • Modernize signal controller systems (systems currently face 20- to 30-year replacement cycles).
  • Develop and update communication infrastructure where possible.
  • Follow guidance from U.S. DOT and state agencies where available.

What’s Next?

This report will serve as a reference for local agencies. The study reaches many of the same conclusions as another LRRB study on this topic, which also recommends focusing on pavement markings, signage and controller systems adaptable to future technologies. 

MnDOT will be funding research for monitoring the performance of its Highway 55 Connected Corridor in Minneapolis and its CAV and vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure.

This post pertains to Report 2019-35, How Locals Need to Prepare for the Future of V2V/V2I Connected Vehicles, published August 2019.

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