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Public Roads - July/August 2017

July/August 2017
Issue No:
Vol. 81 No. 1
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Guest Editorial

Making History Moving Transportation Forward


In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation celebrated three milestones: the 60th anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, the 50th anniversary of USDOT, and the 25th anniversary of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). During these time periods, the U.S. transportation system matured significantly. More recently, wireless connectivity has permanently altered the world around us—changing how Americans do business, keep up with current events, and connect with friends and family.

Connected vehicle technology is being deployed in U.S. vehicles and on the Nation’s roads, and driverless cars are moving from the realm of science fiction into reality. On the cusp of these and other revolutionary changes to the U.S. transportation system, it is particularly apt to reflect on what USDOT can learn from the past to help shape the future.

Wireless communications have the potential to transform the U.S. transportation system. Research has shown that connected vehicles could save thousands of lives every year, while improving mobility, saving fuel, and reducing emissions. On the heels of extensive research, development, and testing, USDOT now is engaged in the exciting stage of real-world pilots and deployments—including sites in Wyoming, New York City, and Tampa, FL. 

Furthermore, the Department’s progress with connected vehicles can help advance other initiatives, including automated vehicles and smart communities. Automated vehicles can improve safety on U.S. roads, expand transportation capabilities, and extend mobility options to more people. Connectivity unleashes the full benefits of automated vehicles. The ITS JPO already is moving forward with research that advances connected vehicle concepts to automated vehicles. The technology USDOT and its partners have developed will give automated vehicles 360-degree awareness of the vehicles and infrastructure around them. 

Connected and automated vehicle technology will play a prominent role in the move toward smart communities, which depend on connectivity and open data to ensure critical municipal systems work together and operate efficiently to improve the lives of residents. Connected vehicles and infrastructure will yield unprecedented levels of data, which will be the basis for a multitude of innovative applications, leading to smarter vehicles, smarter infrastructure, and, ultimately, smart communities. 

Over the past 26 years, USDOT’s ITS portfolio has made great strides to improve the transportation system. To learn about the specific ways USDOT and the ITS JPO have invested in advancing innovative and life-saving technologies, see “ITS Is Changing the World” on page 18 in this issue of Public Roads. 

The connected vehicle and smart community programs are part of a much larger initiative to improve transportation by moving toward a more intelligent and connected system. By learning from and building on its rich history of transportation research, the ITS JPO can more fully explore and understand the possibilities of the future.

Kenneth M. Leonard
Director, ITS JPO
U.S. Department of Transportation 

Notice: Effective October 1, 2017, Public Roads will be transitioning from a bimonthly to a quarterly publication. The initial quarterly publication will be for the Autumn 2017 issue. Please direct any questions or comments regarding this transition to Editor-in-Chief Lisa Shuler at