Upgrading Roads for Driverless Cars

March 8, 2016

Word on the street is that self-driving cars are coming to our near future. With that in mind, federal and state DOTs are looking at what can be done now while new roads are built and existing highways are repaired to prepare for "connected vehicles" merging into the nation's traffic.

Vehicle infrastructure integration, the actual network of technologies that will allow autonomous vehicles, is a new consideration for projects already on the books.

“As we build new roads, are there things we need to put in place now?” asked Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). "Pavement markings are a real easy one," said Steudle. Driverless cars rely on cameras, radar and laser-mapping tools to determine where they are. GPS is not precise enough-yet - to keep cars on the road.Those cameras use striping and other pavement markings to understand their surroundings, but the quality and consistency of those markings can vary greatly even within one state. Automakers are asking about standardized markings - patterns, reflectivity, texture, materials - all things that the autonomous vehicles will 'look' at as part of the driverless function.

Then there is the data. Steudle cautions that governments installing connected devices need to keep current on what technologies automakers are using now and what they plan to use in the future.

“Does it have the latest technology? Is it upgradable? Is it open?” he asked. “The worst thing that would happen is if someone would buy the Betamax version of a traffic control system,” referring to the defunct format of videocassettes that was eclipsed by the VHS format.

Daniel Vock's article in Governing is a great look at what some areas are already doing to mesh current construction with future driverless technology.

Source: Governing