Connected-automated vehicles (CAVs) were once a figment of our imagination, something we only saw in science fiction movies; now, they’re becoming a reality.
What exactly is CAV technology? CAVs leverage a combination of on- and off-vehicle sensors, cameras and other technologies to connect with other vehicles and infrastructure to help guide vehicles, improving public safety and traveler mobility. To ensure the Lone Star State continues its leadership role in developing transportation innovations, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, has announced the formation of the CAV Task Force.
“This task force is a great opportunity to bring together leaders in transportation and industry in Texas to help chart a path forward,” explains Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Senior Research Engineer Beverly Kuhn, head of the Institute’s System Reliability Division. “That way, the state will be ready for CAVs long before they become commonplace on our roadways.”
TxDOT asked TTI to help coordinate the CAV Task Force, the goal for which is to serve as an incubating hub for any policy recommendations made to the Texas Legislature and Gov. Abbott. The task force serves as a single point of information and coordination for all CAV activities in Texas. Members share their knowledge by hosting industry meetings, creating a knowledge base for best practices and collaboration, and reporting on lessons learned. Members plan to meet as often as six times per year across Texas. TTI is responsible for packaging meeting outcomes to share with various stakeholders.
TTI and TxDOT are confident that CAV technology will benefit both the everyday person and businesses in Texas. Texas has become a hub for technological advancement and start-up culture; it’s important that as technology advances, Texas continues to foster a business-friendly environment. Toward that end, CAV technology will allow businesses to easily move goods across Texas while potentially cutting shipping costs over the long run.
CAV technology will also enable greater mobility, significantly impacting the relationship between individual Texans and their chosen modes of transportation. For example, elderly and disabled travelers could enjoy greater access to health care via driverless vehicles taking them to and from appointments. CAV technology also promises to make travel times more reliable, improving trip estimates for travelers and shippers alike. On the safety front, CAVs hold the potential to reduce crashes through the seamless interaction of vehicles, transportation infrastructure and the driving environment. More accurate driver warnings and automated avoidance systems, for example, can help avoid crashes, creating safer roadways and improving quality of life for drivers.
“The task force provides a framework for TxDOT,” notes TTI Executive Associate Director Ed Seymour. “Through the ongoing evolution of this task force, community partners have more opportunities to learn about the CAV marketplace, stay up to date on CAV industry insights, and be as prepared as possible for the transformation that’s coming.”
The group met for the first time in Austin, Texas, in October 2019. The kickoff meeting focused on establishing the task force’s goals, discussing the status of CAV deployment in Texas, and determining the next steps for the group. TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree was appointed to serve on the task force. Over time, various public awareness strategies — including a website, white papers and an annual report — will make information about CAV technology and task force activities available to stakeholders.
“We are thrilled for what the CAV Task Force will bring to Texas,” states Darran Anderson, director of strategy and innovation for TxDOT. “This task force will promote beneficial and safe advancements in mobility as we prepare for a rapidly approaching future. We are excited to have TTI supporting us on this effort.”