Along the Road
Along the Road is the place to look for information about current and upcoming activities, developments, trends, and items of general interest to the highway community. This information comes from U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let’s meet along the road.
Secretary Chao Announces Drone Program
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao recently launched an initiative to safely test and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with State and local governments in select jurisdictions. USDOT will use the results of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program to accelerate the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace and to realize the benefits of unmanned technology in the Nation’seconomy.
The program will help USDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration develop a regulatory framework that will allow more complex low-altitude operations and identify ways to balance local and national interests. The framework also will improve communications with local, State, and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.
The pilot program will evaluate a variety of operational concepts, including night operations, flights over people, flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies, counter-UAS security operations, and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft.
Industries that could see immediate opportunities from the program include infrastructure inspections and monitoring, emergency management, precision agriculture, commerce, and photography.
For more information, visit https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/integration_pilot_program/.
FHWA Demonstrates Truck Platoons on I–66
In fall 2017, the Federal Highway Administration hosted a demonstration of three-truck platoons on I–66 in Centreville, VA. The demonstration was the culmination of a 4-year FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) project to test the effectiveness of state-of-the-art driving and communications technologies. Event attendees had the opportunity to ride inside the trucks and experience these technologies firsthand.
Transportation researchers have studied various aspects of truck platooning for years. FHWA’s EAR program has added cooperative adaptive cruise control technology and incorporated a third truck into the platoon. Cooperative adaptive cruisecontrol adds vehicle-to-vehicle communications to the adaptive cruise control capability now available in new vehicles. This connectivity enables trucks to operate more smoothly as a unit, reducing and controlling the gaps between vehicles.
The demonstration involved partially automated trucks (which are not driverless) and used professional drivers. The drivers continued to steer the trucks while the system controlled the throttles and brakes. The advanced technology that makes platooning possible is meant to supplement, not replace, the Nation’s commercial motor vehicle operators.
Truck platooning offers key benefits, including reduced fuel costs and increased road efficiency while maintaining safety. FHWA conducted the demonstration with EAR project partners as well as local partners, including the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Fairfax County Park Authority, and State and county police.
For more information, contact Osman Altan at 202–493–3391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorado Introduces Self-Driving Work Zone Vehicle
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind work zone vehicle designed to advance safety for roadway maintenance crews. This self-driving truck, known as the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV), is designed to withstand hits from vehicles and is customarily positioned behind road construction crews to protect workers from the traveling public.
CDOT and a host of partners showcased the AIPV in action without a driver during a live roadway striping operation in Fort Collins, CO. As part of its RoadX program, CDOT and its partners adapted military technology for the AIPV, which uses a rear-mounted attenuator (or crash cushion) to absorb or deflect vehicles that cross into work zones. RoadX represents CDOT’s vision and commitment to being a national leader in using innovative technology to create travel in Colorado that is free of crashes, injuries, and delays.
Between 2000 and 2014, Colorado had 21,898 crashes and 171 fatalities in work zones. According to FHWA, in 2015, there were 70 crash-related injuries every day and 12 crash-related fatalities every week in work zones. The AIPV is designed to reduce these numbers by using technology to mimic the position, speed, and direction of a lead vehicle that transmits a signal to the trailing driverless vehicle, ensuring the AIPV is always correctly positioned between roadway workers and live traffic.
Prior to the live roadway operation, CDOT conducted extensive testing of the AIPV’s emergency stopping and obstacle detection systems. Testing also confirmed the vehicle’s ability to stay in its lane and make tight turns.
For more information, visit www.codot.gov/programs/roadx.
Public Information and Information Exchange
Driver Statistics Continue to Set Records
In November 2017, FHWA published data showing that the United States had a record-high 221.7 million licensed drivers in 2016. All but five States saw increases among licensed drivers in 2016 compared to the previous year.
The data show that 41.7 million—or almost one in five—drivers are 65 years or older and that this age group is growing faster than any other. The largest single-year percentage increase in licensed drivers in 2016 was among those who are between 75 and 79 years old, increasing by 4.98 percent over the previous year. Drivers aged 85 or older increased by more than 161,000 people—or 4.62 percent—since the previous year, making them the Nation’s second-fastest growing demographic group in 2016.
Drivers 20 to 34 years old account for nearly one in four U.S. drivers, increasing slightly to 57 million drivers from the 56.1 million reported in 2015. Teen drivers continued to increase slightly for the third year in a row, rising to 8.8 million—the highest level since 2013, but remaining at among the lowest levels since the Federal Government began compiling driver license data in 1963.
FHWA collects license data from all 50 States and Washington, DC. Published in FHWA’s Highway Statistics, an annual compilation of information about drivers, vehicles, and roads, the data reflect the growing demands on the U.S. highway system and inform decisions by transportation policymakers, researchers, and academia.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics.cfm.
New Publication Available for Accessible Shared Streets
Shared streets are streets in which pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles are intended to mix in the same space. Communities across the United States are implementing shared streets for a variety of reasons, including to foster economic development, improve safety, provide more flexible public space, and accommodate demand for more walking and bicycling opportunities. As the shared street concept gains momentum, it is important to ensure that the designs for shared streets meet the needs of all users. To help, FHWA recently published Accessible Shared Streets: Notable Practices and Considerations for Accommodating Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities (FHWA-HEP-17-096).
The publication includes a description of shared streets, an overview of vision disabilities, and the strategies that people with vision disabilities use to navigate in the public right-of-way. It goes on to discuss the specific challenges faced by pedestrians with vision disabilities when they are navigating shared streets. In addition, Accessible Shared Streets provides an overview of relevant U.S. guidance, a toolbox of strategies for designing shared streets that improve accessibility for pedestrians with vision disabilities, and ideas on how accessibility for those pedestrians can be addressed in the planning and design process.
Accessible Shared Streets provides information from case studies that highlight accessibility features and lessons learned, as well as a bibliography that includes sources referenced in the publication and other sources that inspired its content and may be useful for the designers of shared streets.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/accessible_shared_streets/fhwahep17096.pdf.
Arizona Launches Website for Responders
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) recently unveiled a new website to help make responses to traffic incidents more efficient and vehicle travel safer for motorists in Arizona. Developed by ADOT and the State’s Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Traffic Incident Management (TIM) site aims to be the go-to resource for training that targets Arizona TIM responders.
“Effective traffic incident management keeps the public safe, emergency responders safe, and traffic moving,” says Derek Arnson, manager of ADOT’s Traffic Management Group. “It’s important that everyone who responds to a traffic incident, from law enforcement to tow truck operators, [is] working together and following the same practices.”
TIM is the coordinated practices, responsibilities, and cooperation of emergency responders, which includes law enforcement, fire departments, medical services, transportation crews, and tow truck operators, at traffic incidents. Coordinated efforts help keep crash victims and emergency responders safe, while restoring traffic flow.
Although the website is geared toward emergency responders, it also offers tips for the public, including videos and infographics related to Arizona’s Move Over law, quick clearance, and work zone safety.
For more information, visit https://tim.az.gov.
TRB Signs Memoranda of Understanding With Partners
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently signed memoranda of understanding with the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), the International Road Federation (IRF), and WTS International (formerly Women’s Transportation Seminar).
“In order to conduct exemplary research, TRB relies on domestic and international partnerships with other transportation organizations,” says Neil Pedersen, executive director of TRB. “Through memoranda of understanding with IRF, COMTO, and WTS, TRB will continue to foster collaboration within the transportation research community.”
On November 15, 2017, Pedersen signed a memorandum of understanding with Kiran K. Kapila, chairman of IRF, and Susanna Zammataro, executive director of IRF. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, IRF is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with the mission to promote the development of roads and road networks that enable access and sustainable mobility for all. The agreement was signed at the IRF World Road Meeting 2017 in New Delhi, India.
In January 2018, Pedersen signed memoranda with Diane Woodend Jones, WTS International’s board chair, and A. Bradley Mims, president and chief executive officer of COMTO. WTS is an international organization dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women, and COMTO provides a forum for minority professionals in the transportation industry. Both agreements were formalized during the 2018 TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
TIM Program Reaches Training Milestone
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao joined officials representing first responders at an event in November 2017 to announce that 300,000 emergency responders have completed FHWA’s training for traffic incident management responders. The 5-year-old TIM training program is a national effort to improve the safety of first responders on the scene of highway crashes.
“The courage and dedication of America’s emergency responders is inspiring as well as life-saving,” says Secretary Chao. “Traffic incident management training helps save the lives of first responders, who put their own safety at risk every day when they go to work and respond to. . . highway crashes.”
The event, held during National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, highlighted the commitment of first responders. To assist their efforts and to ensure their safety, FHWA developed the TIM course. Designed by and for responders, the course helps build teams of well-trained police, firefighters, highway workers, and emergency medical and towing personnel. Together, they learn a common set of practices, including quick clearance techniques that improve communications and reduce the amount of time needed on scene. The training will remain available along with a refresher course.
The 300,000 emergency responders who have completed the training represent all 50 States; Washington, DC; and Puerto Rico.
To read Secretary Chao’s full remarks, visit www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/national-traffic-incident-response-awareness-week.