New Project: Influence of Autonomous and Partially Autonomous Vehicles on Minnesota Roads

As autonomous vehicles (AVs) become increasingly more numerous on roadways, they have the potential to substantially alter traffic flow. New vehicles today have many driver-assisting (or SAE Level 1) features—such as adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, collision avoidance, emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance—which still require a hands-on driver. However, as technology advances toward eventual SAE Level 4 automation, vehicles will be able to function without drivers, which will likely change the shape of traffic flow.

In a new study co-sponsored by MnDOT and the Local Road Research Board, researchers will conduct experimental tests of AVs on Minnesota highways and local roads to determine how their presence may affect traffic flow and traffic behavior. The research will provide state-specific data on AV performance that will inform the transportation community on implications for infrastructure maintenance, winter road maintenance, work zone guidelines, road safety and traffic capacity.

“While most previous work has been theoretical,” explained Victor Lund, traffic engineer, St. Louis County, “this project aims to practically evaluate the operation of autonomous vehicles on all types of Minnesota roadways to better understand the needs and challenges to support their operation.”


This new study will evaluate how lower-level (SAE Levels 1, 2 and 3) autonomous vehicles can influence traffic behavior. Researchers will consider the following:

  1. Impact of partial autonomy on traffic flow on different Minnesota highway facilities, such as:
    • Rural versus urban
    • Signalized versus unsignalized intersections
    • Lane transitions
    • Interchanges
  2. Effect of traffic flow changes on the safe and efficient management of highways during the transition to greater autonomy.
  3. Influence of lower-level autonomous vehicles on traffic behavior and whether that relationship is consistent across many kinds of roadways.
  4. Influence of the mix of SAE Levels 1, 2 and 3 vehicles on traffic behavior.

Project Details

  • Estimated Start Date: 08/16/2021
  • Estimated Completion Date: 03/31/2023
  • Funding: MnDOT & LRRB
  • Principal Investigator: Rajesh Rajamani
  • Technical Liaison: Victor Lund

Details of the research study work plan and timeline are subject to change.

To receive email updates about this project, visit MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation to subscribe.

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