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PennDOT bids to be a proving ground for autonomous vehicle technology

January 11, 2017

Autonomous self-driving driverless vehicle with radar on the roadLate last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched an effort to identify facilities that could serve as proving grounds for autonomous vehicle technology. PennDOT has responded to the solicitation, essentially saying, “Deal us in.”

Pennsylvania’s response includes the city of Pittsburgh, where a significant volume of autonomous vehicle testing already is underway in an urban setting, thanks mainly to the research and development efforts of Carnegie Mellon University. It also includes a closed track at Penn State University for low-speed testing and Pocono Raceway for higher-speed testing and multiple connected vehicles, also known as “platooning.”

“As we have said before in this forum, autonomous vehicles are much closer to a reality than many people are aware,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “The vast majority of traffic accidents are caused by human error, and while driverless vehicles may sound like a scary proposition at first, reducing or eliminating human errors will go a long way toward making highway travel safer. It’s exciting to have Pennsylvania in the middle of this technological advancement.”

 

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Driverless technology advances in Pennsylvania

December 14, 2016

Autonomous self-driving driverless vehicle with radar on the roadWhile engineers and auto manufacturers continue to work on driverless technology, Pennsylvania is beginning work on the regulations that will guide this fledgling industry.

PennDOT assembled an Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force to draft recommendations on the rules for driverless cars. The goal was to combine the state’s focus on innovation with the public’s need for safety.

Combining input from organizations including the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors, Uber, the University of Pennsylvania, SAE and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the task force produced a report containing the following recommendations:

  • Testers of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs) must submit testing proposals to PennDOT and enter contracts attesting that the vehicles meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by PennDOT.
  • PennDOT must be notified prior to any HAV being used without an operator in fully self-driving mode.
  • PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission may temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes. Otherwise, HAVs may be tested on any road in the state. Municipalities can also ask PennDOT to temporarily restrict HAVs on local routes.
  • Platooning, or electronically joining two or more vehicles controlled by a lead vehicle, also was addressed. Platooning of HAVs will be limited to two commercial or three passenger vehicles. PennDOT can approve additional vehicles in platoons after seeing a safety demonstration.
  • The HAVs must be able to record data that can be used to investigate crashes involving the HAVs. PennDOT will have access to the data.
  • Testers must certify that cybersecurity protections are in place for the HAVs.
  • PennDOT will collect data on total HAV miles traveled, total hours of operation, and size of HAV fleets. PennDOT may also ask for other information such as counties where HAVs are being tested and percentage of testing done on limited access highways.

“The prospect of driverless cars on our highways is an exciting prospect, but one that should be approached with the utmost focus on safety,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “The report produced by this task force is a positive step toward reasonable regulation.”

 

News

PennDOT lets $338 million in November

December 1, 2016

NEW_PENNDOTPennDOT let just over $338 million projects during the month of November according to numbers compiled by the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC).  With this letting, PennDOT has bid a total of $2.346 billion in 2016 to date. At this same point last year, PennDOT bid a total of $2.534 billion. The official 2015 year-end total was $2.594 billion just shy of PennDOT’s $2.6 billion forecast. PennDOT is expected to hit its $2.4 billion letting goal by year’s end.

Recently, PennDOT announced that their 2017 letting goal will again be $2.4 billion.

With the 2013 enactment of the transportation funding bill (Act 89) there is reason to see increased lettings. Act 89, which will implement a $2.3 billion comprehensive transportation funding plan over the next five years, will result in PennDOT exceeding the $2 billion construction lettings mark for years to come. Read more

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President-elect Donald Trump nominates Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation

November 30, 2016

819px-elaine_chao_large-819x675President-elect Donald Trump announced that Elaine Chao is his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation. Chao is the former secretary of labor under President George W. Bush.

Chao has had a long and successful career in Washington. She’s the first Asian-American woman to have held a cabinet-level position. Before becoming labor secretary, she served as a deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush. Her work in transportation was primarily in maritime travel; Chao was the chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

In addition to her service in the federal government, Chao has been president and CEO of the United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps and a distinguished fellow with the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation.

She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

“We are encouraged by Chao’s strong record in transportation and labor issues at the federal level,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “The Trump administration has promised major investment in infrastructure, and the secretary of transportation will play a critical role in that work.”

 

News

President-elect Trump proposes $1T infrastructure plan

November 18, 2016

Road constructionFollowing his electoral victory last Tuesday night, President-elect Donald Trump has delved further into the policy required to enact some of his campaign promises. One such promise was $1 trillion invested in infrastructural improvements.

His proposal is a 10-year program, with funding for highways, tunnels, bridges and airports. The funding comes in large part from tax credits to spur private investment. It does not include any changes to the Highway Trust Fund, or an increase in the federal gas tax.

The plan was mentioned in Trump’s acceptance speech in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none — and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

Trump’s proposal has garnered much support in the transportation industry, and on both sides of the aisle of Congress in Washington. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, from Pennsylvania, called the plan “encouraging” and said that “the idea of addressing transportation is gaining some traction in Washington.”

“The highway industry in Pennsylvania is very much looking forward to seeing this proposal enacted,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “We are glad the president-elect acknowledges the improvements that need to be made to our infrastructure, and we are ready to get to work.”

 

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