US DOT Connected Vehicle Pilot Program Seeks Safer, Smarter, and Greener Projects

Government agencies are gearing up for the first wave of the United States Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. The program’s goals are to test, measure and promote the public benefits of a wide range of connected modes in vehicles, mobile devices and public infrastructure.

After the project implementation phase ends, the projects will remain as permanent operational elements, solving transportation, safety and environmental challenges in the long term.

One of the key deployment benefits that the DOT is looking to achieve is in the areas of safety for motorists, pedestrians, road crews, transit riders and cyclists.  Projects will also have to improve mobility, and benefit the environment through reduced emissions and consumption of fewer resources. The DOT envisions a range of pilot projects impacting multiple geographic areas and vehicle fleets, and addressing a variety of modes.

The first wave will see requests for proposals issued in the winter of 2015, and a second wave is planned for 2017. Each wave will include two to five awards total made up of small ($2-$5M), medium ($5-$12M) and large ($12-$20M) deployments. At most, only two of the deployments total will be as large as $20M.

Josh Peterman, senior associate of the transportation engineering and planning consulting firm Fehr and Peers, and chairman of the board of directors of ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) California anticipates the potential impact on the ITS industry of the long-awaited program: “It’s an infusion of dollars via a competitive application process…It’s a nice shot in the arm in terms of ITS Industry investment.” he explains. 

Peterman adds, “Connected Vehicle applications will change how technology allows the transportation system to work more effectively and the Connected Vehicle Pilot Program is our first step down that path. It also represents an important diversification of users and providers, making the industry stronger and more sustainable in the face of increasing questions surrounding transportation funding.”

Mike Pina, a Program Manager in ITS Research and Development at the US Department of Transportation says this process will offer opportunities for a number of firms.“OEM’s, telematics firms and ITS firms will certainly be part of any connected vehicle pilot, because they are an integral part of any deployment,” Pina says, adding, “The goal is to encourage multiple stakeholders to partner in deploying connected vehicle applications using data from multiple sources across all elements of the surface transportation system.” 

The USDOT is hoping for data capture from a number of sources including vehicles. The aim is for multiple connected vehicle applications to be deployed together, leveraging a combination of DSRC and other data to address multi-modal problems.

The pilot program requires for proposed technological applications to be market ready, and for projects to leverage some existing USDOT research. Results should measure benefits to public policy objectives rather than testing how well the technology functions. The issues the deployments address will need to be institutional and financial, as well as technical.

The phases of the deployments include a six- to nine-month concept development phase in which teams work out project goals, performance measure criteria and targets. That would be followed by a two year design, development and integration phase. Finally there’s a planned eighteen-month operations and maintenance phase. There is no specific way that pilot projects should be organized, or what type of entity must “lead” as long as there is a single point of responsibility for the pilot deployments.

Not all Connected Vehicle applications are in the same stage of market readiness, but this program strives to make the most of those that will be by the beginning of 2015. One of the key objectives that the DOT is advancing is to create synergies among applications, and reduce costs.

Despite the potential opportunity for OEM’s, software makers, chip-makers and infrastructure owners to collaborate, Mr. Peterman points out that once a pilot project is in place, operations and maintenance will remain a serious challenge to public agencies.

Moreover, winning the projects will require careful strategizing. Peterman, the ITS California board of directors chairman, predicts, “Winners will be those who have the largest teams, most local match dollars, most experience, a clear vision of the application, and solid understanding of how to implement and measure it.  Unfortunately this means some really innovative ideas might be left on the floor if they are not well-funded and organized.  But some innovation will come from it, and yes, I think it will make people work together who don’t normally play together in the same sandbox”.

This year's TU-Automotive Detroit Conference & Exhibition (June 3-4) will explore smarter mobility programs. From new ownership models to sustainable transportation and smart cities, sessions will explore the tech fundamentally reshaping mobility. Reserve a copy of the agenda here.


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