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

Public Roads - Summer 2021

Summer 2021
Issue No:
Vol. 85 No. 2
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

CARMASM: Maritime Administration CDA Development and Testing

by Hyungjun Park, Kirk Claussen, Lindsey Grooms, Katie Blizzard Piskai, and Ed Leslie

Can applying cooperative driving automation (CDA) systems increase efficiency and safety and decrease emissions in a port environment? The CARMA Program's testing aims to find out.

Urban streets, commuter corridors, work zones—all of these environments can benefit from the implementation of cooperative driving automation (CDA) technologies. But the benefits of CDA are not only for passenger travel. The Maritime Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) have partnered with the Federal Highway Administration's Saxton Lab to explore CDA applications to port drayage and commercial motor vehicle operations.

This multifaceted project began in 2019 and will be completed in 2022. Its primary goal is to use CDA to improve the performance of maritime ports and terminals along with the larger freight network. The project aims to develop and test use cases for port drayage and commercial motor vehicle operations that leverage CDA-equipped commercial vehicles to increase efficiency and safety and decrease emissions.

This port drayage testing has two primary objectives: (1) to support the adoption of connected automated vehicle and CDA technologies in U.S. ports, and (2) to study the costs and benefits of automated truck movement in queues at ports and staging areas. By building on past research, the testing should provide some indication of possible benefits to port authorities and stakeholders.

"CDA technology offers the potential to significantly improve port operations," says Kevin Dopart, the program manager for vehicle and safety automation with the ITS JPO. "However, further use case development is necessary to demonstrate the concept to stakeholders, and data-driven analyses are needed to refine the technology to operate in the most beneficial way."

Four commercial motor vehicles are parked in a parking lot. Source: FHWA
Researchers are using a test fleet of four CARMA-equipped commercial motor vehicles to explore CDA technology for freight, including at maritime ports.

This project aims to fill these gaps by developing and testing proof-of-concept use cases for a test track, initially with a real CDA-enabled Class 8 tractor and trailer and later with CDA-enabled, automated, small-scale model trucks.

FHWA and its partners are developing the CDA-enabled model trucks as part of the CARMA 1Tenth program. The program is inspired by the F1TENTH program, an effort founded by the University of Pennsylvania that now partners with dozens of universities and organizations worldwide. F1TENTH holds regular racing competitions focused on advancing automated driving system education on scaled-down autonomous vehicles. CARMA 1Tenth works to incorporate CDA into F1TENTH's efforts.

This research builds on FHWA's CARMA PlatformSM, which provides open-source software for the research and development of CDA capabilities. The port drayage use cases will extend the CARMA ecosystem to explore the benefits of CDA for the Nation's ports and their stakeholders.

A freight truck with the CARMA logo pulls a trailer with the words "Our Roads, Our Safety: Partnership for Responsible Driving." Source: FHWA.
CARMA-equipped vehicles like this truck are helping FHWA, MARAD, and FMCSA discover how CDA technologies can improve safety and efficiency for commercial freight.

Proof-of-Concept Testing

The team developed a high-level concept of operations for using CDA to improve drayage operations at ports, as well as a proof-of-concept test plan for demonstrating this concept using CDA-equipped commercial motor vehicles. In the demonstration, the trucks will self-navigate around a loop, starting and ending in a mock staging area lot for the loading and unloading of containers. Along this loop, each vehicle will enter a mock port (on a test track), get a container loaded onto its chassis, and stop at a virtual inspection point where vehicles "passing" inspection will continue onward and vehicles "failing" inspection will navigate to a holding area for further inspection. Passing vehicles will then traverse gate passage and emulate a short-haul drayage before returning to the starting location. The CARMA ecosystem's cloud capabilities (CARMA CloudSM) will be used to manage the rules of this fleet as it drives through each of the activities.

The project will use commercial motor vehicles equipped with automation technologies, including CARMA, for this testing. The U.S. Department of Transportation currently maintains a fleet of four CDA-enabled commercial vehicles—three from FMCSA's Automated Commercial Motor Vehicle Evaluation (ACE) program and one from the FHWA CARMA Program. The FMCSA ACE program supports this project and several related efforts to promote the safe deployment of commercial vehicles with connected and automated vehicle technology.

The demonstration will use FMCSA and FHWA's combined fleet of CDA- and CARMA-equipped Class 8 tractor trailers at a test track. Researchers are considering the Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, MD, and SunTrax in Auburndale, FL, for the testing.

Key trends indicate the need for greater operational efficiencies in ports where port drayage automation could help offset or overcome some limitations. The current atmosphere includes increased costs because of increasing port traffic, fluctuation in demand, larger vessels deployed by ocean carriers, rigid capacity limitations, and diverging needs of truck and marine terminal operators.

A Google Earth image of a testing area overlaid with a proposed track indicating how vehicles would proceed through a simulated port drayage scenario. Original image © Google Earth. Overlay source: FHWA.
This map shows a proposed use case test route for port drayage at a test track. The commercial motor vehicle enters, is directed to one of three loading points (1, 2, 3), goes through a virtual inspection point (4), and then exits if it passes inspection or proceeds to a holding area (5) if it does not.

Looking Ahead

The next step after the proof-of-concept demonstration will be to develop and test a more enhanced port drayage automation use case customized for an actual port. The team is in the process of selecting a port by identifying and reaching out to candidate ports that show an interest in collaborating on this testing and meet the use case requirements. Once a port is selected, the team will develop a customized port drayage automation use case, and two demonstrations will take place sequentially. The first demonstration will use CARMA 1Tenth trucks and a model of the configuration of the selected real port. The second demonstration will use real CDA-enabled commercial motor vehicles at the selected port.

FMCSA's ACE program uses CARMA-equipped freight trucks.

"This project is an exciting part of our multiyear research program that addresses critical freight movement and ITS infrastructure gaps," says Travis Black, the team lead for Port Development and Intermodal Planning for the Maritime Administration's Office of Ports & Waterways Planning.

For more information, see "CARMASM: Enabling Collaboration and Ensuring Safety in Freight Operations" in the Summer 2020 issue of Public Roads. The CARMA opensource software is available on GitHub at

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

Kirk Claussen serves in the Maritime Administration's Office of Ports & Waterways as a port finance agent and leads port innovation activities. He provides guidance to ports on infrastructure investment and leads the intelligent transportation systems program, focusing on increasing cargo capacity and the reliability of freight moving through ports.

Lindsey Grooms is a contracted junior communications specialist who supports communications and outreach activities at FHWA's Saxton Lab. She earned her B.A. in public relations from Virginia Tech.

Katie Blizzard Piskai is a contracted research and development project manager for connected and automated vehicles. She supports CARMA and connected and automated vehicle projects at the Saxton Lab, and is the contracted project manager for the CARMA Freight project. She earned her master's degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College.

Ed Leslie is a contracted senior electrical engineer who supports CARMA and connected and automated vehicle projects at the Saxton Lab. He is the contracted principal investigator for the CARMA Freight project. He earned his M.S. in electrical engineering from San Josè State University and a B.S. from the University of Maryland.