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Reflections on the Automated Vehicle Symposium

The Automated Vehicles Symposium (organized by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB)) has fast become the largest gathering of professionals involved with making automated vehicles a reality. Attendance has increased significantly since the event’s inception six years ago when 125 participated; this past July in San Francisco, there were 1,500 on hand.

The field itself has come a long way.  Last year’s Symposium proceedings stated it well:

The development, testing, building, and deployment of autonomous vehicles continue at a rapid pace. These technologies will have a major impact on transportation safety and mobility, as well as the environment and urban forms. The introduction of these technologies also has the potential to disrupt the transportation system.

This trajectory and these challenges remain constant for us. We knew it when vehicle automation was first a vision, and we know it now as we grapple with how best we bring these technologies to bear in safe, affordable, efficient, and manageable ways.

The implications for the Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) community in particular are profound. For vehicle automation to work, we must witness the successful convergence of vehicle, infrastructure, and human interaction. If the Symposium achieved nothing else (and it was indeed successful in many respects!), it continued to bring together more and more of our diverse stakeholder community, each of whom has a purpose and role to play. TSMO itself was well represented, both as presenters and participants. And for all, the takeaways were significant:

  • With all the advances in research, more is still needed to ensure that vehicle and infrastructure technologies are fully integrated.
  • The policy and regulatory framework continues to take shape.  That said, the moving target of research and emerging deployments makes it hard to pin down what this framework needs to look like, but until we do so, deploying agencies will be hard pressed to operate systems manageably.
  • More work needs to be done on the human element—this is partly a human factors research matter, but equally so a call for more effective engagement of the public in general and the traveling public in particular when it comes to the role and impact of automation on society.
  • Issues like data sharing, liability, and cybersecurity need our focus and consensus.  In each case, technology is our friend, helping to make these challenges surmountable.

If you attended the Symposium, NOCoE would like to know what you learned and how best the Center can help support TSMO efforts to do its part in the automation world.