USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Summer 2020

Summer 2020
Issue No:
Vol. 84 No. 2
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

CARMA℠: Enabling Collaboration and Ensuring Safety in Freight Operations

by Hyungjun Park, Nicole Michel, and Kirk Claussen

FHWA-created CARMA℠ software supports the testing and advancement of automated driving systems in the commercial trucking industry.

The primary mission of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. In 2019, there were 128,739 crashes involving large trucks and buses, which caused 3,543 fatalities and 68,851 injuries. Cooperative driving automation (CDA) has the potential to increase the safety of the Nation's roadways and achieve USDOT's vision of safer roads and zero fatalities.


FHWA's CARMA program has equipped four commercial motor vehicles to study connected vehicles and automated vehicle technology applications in freight.


In a joint project, the Federal Highway Administration, FMCSA, U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), and USDOT's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) are using CARMA℠ software to develop CDA systems that can improve the transportation efficiency and safety of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). CDA equips vehicles with the ability to communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

Composed of the CARMA Platform℠ and CARMA Cloud℠, CARMA is an open-source software created by FHWA that enables researchers and engineers to develop and test CDA features on properly equipped vehicles across different travel scenarios. The CARMA Platform provides cooperative research functionality to an automated driving system (ADS) and, in tandem with the real-time traffic and weather information provided by CARMA Cloud, enables automated vehicles to interact and cooperate with other vehicles and infrastructure.

"The CARMA ecosystem was architected with a flexible framework to advance emerging automated driving technology that will enable CDA," says Taylor Lochrane, a technical program manager in FHWA's Office of Operations Research and Development. "The framework enables seamless integration with diverse vehicle models ranging from passenger cars to heavy trucks."

The latest version of CARMA is publicly available on the GitHub development platform at

Freight and Research Focus

FMCSA's Automated CMV Evaluation program focuses on research, development, and testing of CARMA-equipped commercial trucks, as documented in the agency's Automated Truck Safety Research Plan. FMCSA is currently expanding its knowledge base in the areas of automated CMV inspections, operation of automated CMVs in and around work zone areas, and considerations for emergency response personnel when interacting with automated CMVs. FMCSA's program supports the safe and timely deployment and operation of automated CMVs, expanding the knowledge base for automated CMV safety, and updating inspection and enforcement practices for automated CMVs.


CARMA-equipped freight vehicles navigate the roads around FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.


MARAD, in conjunction with ITS JPO research programs, seeks to increase cargo capacity and reliability of freight moving through ports. MARAD is engaged in a multiyear research program that seeks to achieve two primary goals: 1) to identify opportunities to conduct research that addresses critical freight movement and ITS infrastructure gaps; and 2) to identify opportunities for pilot projects and programs to be deployed including technology transfer. The goal of the program is to use ITS to improve the performance of maritime ports and terminals along with the larger freight network, including to increase efficiencies and safety and decrease emissions.

CARMA equips vehicles with the ability to interact and cooperate with other vehicles and roadway infrastructure, which could facilitate freight operations by increasing cargo capacity and the reliability of freight movement through ports. FHWA, FMCSA, MARAD, and ITS JPO are conducting research using a fleet of four CARMA-equipped heavy trucks to demonstrate the benefits of connected and automated vehicle technology for loading and unloading chassis and containers, passage through inspection points and gates, and short-haul drayage.

The CARMA freight research builds upon and extends research from CARMA Platform, CARMA Cloud, and CARMA simulation projects to support use cases for ADS transportation systems management and operations. The project will also provide recommendations for cybersecurity research areas, as related to CMVs, to expand the freight research framework found in FMCSA's Automated Truck Safety Research Plan.

Proof-of-Concept Testing

In spring 2021 at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, research teams will conduct a proof-of-concept use case application developed using agile Scrum methodology to demonstrate the ability to increase freight movement at ports through CDA interactions with port infrastructure. The CARMA automation will be limited to the forward motion of the trucks, and simulated operations will involve moving payloads on and off a single attached chassis.

The proof-of-concept testing will integrate cooperative ADS capabilities with freight mobility strategies, first on closed test tracks and then on public roads to evaluate cooperative automation for port management. In one testing scenario, heavy vehicles may be set on a route to navigate from a starting point lot to a location for loading and unloading chassis and containers. Vehicles will stop at an inspection point, and those that pass inspection will continue onward while those that fail inspection will navigate to a holding area for further assessment. Vehicles will subsequently navigate gate passage, emulate a short-haul drayage, return to the starting location, and reverse or loop around into a loading and unloading area at the starting point lot. CARMA Cloud may be used to manage the rules of the fleet as the ADS-enabled heavy trucks progress through each activity.

Looking Ahead

A multiyear project, the FHWA CARMA freight initiative is performing critical CDA research in phases on automated port operations and automated CMV operations. Studies will demonstrate the role of ADS in increasing efficiencies and safety, while decreasing emissions, in a port environment. The research aims to advance technology implementation in the Nation's ports and investigate a positive cost-to-benefit ratio for automated truck movement and port operations.

The CARMA architecture is designed for easy sharing and integration into different vehicle categories, supporting research and testing on ADS in CMVs. CARMA-enabled trucks introduce new avenues for innovation by expanding data collection opportunities and enabling shared expertise and pilot transportation technologies. CARMA truck programs seek to identify opportunities to conduct research that addresses gaps in freight movement, intelligent transportation systems infrastructure, and commercial vehicle safety.

"Through this critical research, USDOT hopes to harness CDA concepts in order to reduce large truck crashes and enhance freight mobility," says Kevin Dopart, a program manager in USDOT's ITS JPO. "We are working toward the ultimate goal of transforming the transportation industry."


CARMA equips vehicles with the ability to interact and cooperate with other vehicles and roadway infrastructure.


Hyungjun Park is a highway research engineer in FHWA's Office of Operations Research and Development, managing various CDA activities focusing on commercial motor vehicles and freight. He earned a B.S. in city planning from Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Virginia.

Nicole Michel is a mathematical statistician in the Research Division of FMCSA's Office of Analysis, Research, and Technology. She manages a variety of contracts and projects to enhance FMCSA's missions to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. She earned a B.S. in mathematics from Loyola College in Baltimore, MD; an M.S. in statistics and finance from Towson University in Towson, MD; and an M.S. in engineering systems from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

Kirk Claussen serves in the MARAD Office of Ports & Waterways, providing guidance to ports on infrastructure investment, including for ITS. He leads the ITS program with a focus on planning, funding, and deployment of technology solutions to increase cargo capacity and reliability of freight moving through ports.

For more information, contact Hyungjun Park at or visit