While 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.”
Filed under: News
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale audited the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and found potentially troubling news for the state’s comprehensive transportation system if the General Assembly does not address the onerous financial obligations facing the commission.
The audit covered the performance of the turnpike over the past two years, and found that with toll increases, the commission collects between $12 million and $20 million annually; however, DePasquale also noted that the commission has set very high projections for traffic and he does not expect them to be met.
Act 44 of 2007 created the turnpike’s financial dilemma, as it mandated that the commission pay $450 million annually to PennDOT. Act 89 of 2013, the comprehensive multi-modal transportation funding bill, decreases the annual payment to PennDOT to $50 million starting in 2023. Read more
Filed under: News
Drivers may begin to see more roundabouts in their Pennsylvania commutes, as studies have concluded that they are safer than traditional intersections.
One such study was recently conducted in the Lehigh Valley and found that there are 90 percent fewer fatal accidents in roundabouts than in intersections. They also found a 35 percent reduction in collisions with pedestrians. Unlike some traffic circles with lights, roundabouts are defined by yielding upon entry and operation without traffic signals.
This study was conducted by RK&K, on behalf of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study committee. The study recommended 26 roundabouts in the Lehigh Valley.
PennDOT is also increasing the use of roundabouts on state roads, with a handful planned for construction in the next year in District 1.
Since these constructions will be new to many Pennsylvanians, PennDOT is offering advice to motorists encountering a roundabout:
- Slow down when approaching the roundabout and be prepared to yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- Approach the “Yield” line, look to the left and check for approaching traffic within the roundabout. Circulating traffic already in the roundabout has the right of way.
- Enter the roundabout when there is a safe gap in traffic. If necessary, stop at the “Yield” line until there is a safe gap in traffic.
- Upon entering the roundabout, drivers have the right of way and should proceed counterclockwise to their exit point.
- Drivers approaching their exit should use their right turn signal, watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk and be prepared to yield to pedestrians.
“According to several studies, roundabouts will make travel safer for both motorists and pedestrians,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “Safety has always been a major concern of PHIA, and we encourage motorists to travel carefully through construction sites where roundabouts are being constructed.”
Filed under: News
Pennsylvania made another Top 20 list this week, but not in a good way. The Scranton urban area ranks 17th among mid-size U.S. cities in terms of the percentage of roads in poor condition, according to TRIP, a national transportation research organization.
TRIP said 32 percent of the roads in the Scranton area are in poor condition, costing drivers an extra $539 per year in additional vehicle operating expenses.
“Driving on rough roads is more than just a nuisance for drivers,” said PHIA President Tom Lawson. “The deterioration of our transportation system impedes economic growth and robs drivers of hundreds of dollars each year. Without a significant boost in transportation funding at the federal, state and local level, conditions will continue to deteriorate, drivers will continue to pay the price, and our economy will suffer.”
TRIP said pavement conditions are likely to worsen under current state and federal funding. Through 2032, the U.S. faces a $156 billion shortfall in the amount needed to maintain roadways in their current condition, a $374 billion shortfall to make modest improvements in pavement conditions and a $670 billion shortfall to make significant improvements to roadway conditions. Read more
Filed under: News
After the transportation funding bill stalled in the House earlier this summer, there was considerable discussion over what the “right” amount of funding would be. Sen. John Rafferty introduced Senate Bill 1, which would have raised $2.5 billion in additional revenue, but by the time the Senate voted 45 to 5 to support the bill, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the House would reduce it to something “more acceptable.”
Once the House stripped a half-billion dollars from the original measure, mostly in public transportation funds, there was little to no interest among Democrats in the House or Senate, many of whom come from more urban areas where the larger public transportation systems are. For that matter, Senate Republicans, including Senator Rafferty, said the House bill, as amended, fell short of a reasonable solution, and the measure did not go to the House floor.
But what is the real funding gap today? In 2010, the state Transportation Advisory Committee calculated it at $3.5 billion annually, a figure on which there was little or no disagreement. The TAC also projected that the gap was growing by nearly $1 million per day – about $880,000, to be precise.
So, today – three years later – Pennsylvania has added nearly a billion dollars to the annual funding gap, for a total of $4.5 billion. Given that, Senator Rafferty’s proposal would have made up a little more than half the current gap, while the House-amended measure would have made up less than half. Read more
Filed under: News
Cutting highway and bridge work by 25 percent and sustaining that cut in the years ahead would put as many as 9,600 Pennsylvania jobs permanently at risk and cost the state $1.25 billion in lost economic activity over a five-year period, an industry economist told the Senate Transportation Committee this week.
Dr. Alison Premo-Black, chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), was invited to testify before the committee based on a report she authored on behalf the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors. It looked at the potential impact of a decrease in the state’s highway and bridge investment from the current $4.3 billion market to $3.8 billion in 2017.
“In this scenario, Pennsylvania contractors will demand fewer materials, equipment and supplies as the overall market opportunities decline and they have fewer projects backlogged,” Black explained.
More than half of the jobs lost would be in sectors other than highway construction, she said. According to the report, nearly 1,000 lost jobs will be in the retail sector, with another 900 related to other administrative and professional services. Nearly eight percent of the job losses could be in the manufacturing sector, and the healthcare industry could lose over 600. Read more
Filed under: News
Traffic congestion costs motorists in some parts of Pennsylvania more than $2,900 per year in wasted time and fuel, according to a new report issued by TRIP, a national transportation research organization.
For the second time this month, TRIP released data demonstrating that the condition of the state’s highway system is costing drivers a significant sum of money – more than it would cost to address the transportation funding problem.
This time, TRIP identified the most congested corridors in five regions of the state: Harrisburg/Lancaster/York, Lehigh Valley/Reading, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The costs are highest in Pittsburgh and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the report said, coming in at more than $2,900 per year. Lehigh Valley/Reading drivers are snagged for more than $2,600 per year, Philly for $2,300 and Harrisburg for $2,000. Read more
On May 29, The Road Information Program (TRIP) released a study estimating that poor Pennsylvania roadways are costing the state’s residents approximately $9.4 billion annual in the form of additional vehicle operating costs as well as in costs of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion and traffic crashes.
To view coverage of the press event in Harrisburg, Pa. view the video below.
Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Pennsylvania motorists a total of $9.4 billion per year statewide, due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays, according to a report by TRIP, a national transportation research group.
The report, “Future Mobility in Pennsylvania: The Cost of Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that 37 percent of the state’s major roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride, while 42 percent of Pennsylvania bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting increasing amounts of time and fuel. And Pennsylvania’s rural non-interstate traffic fatality rate is nearly two-and-a-half times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.
“As the General Assembly looks at a transportation funding measure, there’s a lot of discussion about the cost,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “The TRIP report quantifies the cost of not addressing this problem, and that cost is almost three times greater than the $3.5 billion annual transportation funding gap. Of even greater concern is the safety threat that a deficient transportation system represents, especially in Pennsylvania’s rural areas.” Read more
Filed under: Industry Studies & Reports
PA State Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) Cameras in Work Zones November 2012 Final Report