Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) CAV Conference
KYTC staff attended the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) CAV Conference in Coralville, Iowa, June 19 – 21. Brimming with presentations, panels, and networking opportunities, the event gave attendees a chance to reflect on the current state of the CAV industry and brainstorm how DOTs can leverage the promise of CAVs to build transportation systems which are equitable, safe, and efficient. This post reflects on some of the conference’s key messages and how DOT personnel can apply them in practice.
Be Selective With Projects
Agencies may be tempted to chase the latest technologies and take on more projects than their staff can support. When an agency is spread too thin, projects are likely to suffer. Rather than attempting to pursue everything in the CAV space, DOTs need to pick out a few items to focus on that are likely to confer the greatest benefits and which can address problems that currently exist. Creating a core CAV working group or subcommittee is a useful strategy for guiding activities. These groups can take a leading role in establishing CAV program objectives, project selection, communications and outreach, developing data governance policies and security protocols, and working to achieve organization-wide readiness.
The Promise and Perils of Data
CAVs generate enormous quantities of data. But access to data is uneven, and questions remain over whether and how much automakers and technology firms will charge DOTs and other entities to acquire data generated directly by vehicles.
Awash in data, many agencies find it difficult to keep track of data and harness their power to develop analytical insights. Before turning to analysis, DOTs need to develop clear guidelines and procedures for collecting, storing, and maintaining data. They should also establish unambiguous data usage policies, including protocols for dealing with personally identifiable information (PII). Equally important is being transparent about how data is used and the steps that are taken to protect data. Only after DOTs have taken steps to resolve data collection and storage procedures can they confidently turn to analysis and putting data to use.
Transparency About Return on Investments
A common message was that DOTs need to recognize that the investments they make today in CAV technologies, ASTPMs, and smart infrastructure will not be fully realized for decades. Nonetheless agencies need to remain open to the promise of emerging technologies and begin new projects in order to create forward momentum. One strategy is to identify projects that will have immediate benefits for all users (e.g., modernizing signals, improving lane striping, installing more conspicuous and readable signs) and that will help agencies understand the interactions between CAVs, traditional vehicles, and infrastructure. When requesting additional investments, agency personnel need to establish realistic expectations for political stakeholders and agency leadership in terms of how quickly funding new projects will pay off.
Embrace Holistic Approaches to Safety
CAVs are often touted for their public safety benefits. With adoption that is widespread enough, CAVs hold the promise of strengthening traffic management, improving vehicle flow, and reducing crashes. But agencies need to keep in mind that diverse stakeholders have multiple perspectives on what public safety is and the best methods for enhancing the safety of all roadway users. When DOTs approach questions related to safety they should adopt a holistic mindset and engage with multiple stakeholders to develop consensus strategies for building, operating, and maintaining roadway environments that are safe for all users — not just CAVs.
Failure Can Be An Asset
DOTs will inevitably undertake CAV-related projects that by conventional measures would be termed failures as they are never completed or do not yield the anticipated outcomes. But this is not a productive way of thinking about failure. Even if a project fails based on the metrics that have been defined for it, DOT personnel ultimately benefit from the lessons learned through failure. Knowledge gained through failure is invaluable for moving ahead with new CAV-related projects. When an agency internalizes a fear of failure at the organizational level, it lead to the adoption of mindsets and policies that are too cautious and inflexible.
Keep Communities Informed and Engaged
Like any sophisticated technology, CAVs do not work as intended 100 percent of the time. A growing segment of the population grasps that CAVs are not error free, but it is important for agencies to develop communications strategies that are up front about the capabilities and limitations of CAVs and the role DOT-managed infrastructure plays in strengthening their operations. Proactive engagement is also critical for helping communities identify potential CAV projects they can benefit from. With this knowledge communities can lead grassroots efforts to secure new projects and become leaders in the deployment space. More deployments will increase exposure to CAVs, which in turn will help more people get comfortable the technologies as they become ubiquitous.
Develop Law Enforcement and First Responder Trainings
Wisconsin has taken a leading role in developing CAV pilot trainings for law enforcement and first responders. The courses and videos produced as part of this initiative equips attendees with general information on CAVs, reviews a number of scenarios relevant to law enforcement and incident response, discusses practical issues such as towing vehicles from a scene of a crash, and offers tips for identifying CAVs on the road. In addition to hands-on trainings and videos, the state has produced visor cards and handouts that personnel can quickly reference in the field. As CAVs become more common, it will be critical for agencies to follow Wisconsin’s lead and develop trainings and information that law enforcement and first responders can draw upon so they can handle situations involving CAVs skillfully.
Perhaps the conference’s simplest message was its most important — there is immense value in collaboration.
DOTs should pursue partnerships and collaborations with other DOTs, communities, federal agencies, congressional delegations, private sector firms — any entity that can help a DOT develop a broad coalition of support and which views CAVs technologies as critical tools for building a safer, more equitable, and more sustainable transportation future.
For more information on the conference go to the MAASTO link here and scroll down to PAST MEETINGS & APPROVED DOCUMENTS to view MAASTO CONNECTED & AUTOMATED VEHICLE (CAV) CONFERENCE JUNE 19-21, 2023 presentations.