Methodology to Assess the Secondary and Cumulative Effects of Connected and Automated Vehicles for Environmental Documents

Focus Area

Environmental Considerations in Planning








1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

The objective is to develop a reliable methodology for determining and relaying the secondary and cumulative effects related to the implementation of connected and automated vehicles in environmental documentation. Develop standard procedures for how to and what information is to be included in project environmental documents. Set standard metrics and procedures on how these outcomes will likely influence other potential activities that may contribute to reasonably assessing a proposal’s secondary and cumulative effects. Task 1: Conduct Interviews Conduct interviews of selected state and city DOT officials, progressive companies and related FHWA officials in this subject area. The interview should be regarding current discussions on expectations related to the rate of implementation of connected and automated, the potential issues related to a mixed vehicle fleet that could affect desired and anticipated outcomes, and which category of vehicles in the fleet are anticipated to undergo the most change regarding connected and automated vehicles operations. The interview should also consider scenario planning, fleet penetration projects, connected and automated vehicle benefits and impacts assessment. Use this information to focus the study on elements that are expected to most influence secondary and cumulative outcomes. Task 2: Perform Literature Review Conduct a literature review focusing on model and theoretical analyses on the potential changes in travel and traffic patterns due to the introduction of connected and automated vehicles in road and highway operations. Identify data gaps in existing literature on methodologies and proffered outcomes. Interview paper authors as needed to clarify the reasoning for differences and similarities in approach and conclusion. Evaluate the findings from the interviews and literature reviews to determine the most likely and accepted path toward determination of secondary and cumulative effects. Task 3: Develop Procedures regarding Inclusion in Environmental Documents Using the information from Task 1 and 2, draft an analysis intended to assess when the market saturation percentage of connected and automated vehicles is expected to have a measurable effect on secondary and cumulative effects analysis. The draft analysis should include at a minimum what local services may be lost or gained, will such vehicle operations lend toward sprawl or densification, how will automated and connected vehicles influence mode choice, and what is the overall effect on long-term travel patterns. Send the draft analysis to qualified individuals for comment. Individuals reviewing the draft analysis must include experts in the field of traffic modeling, long range metropolitan planning, environmental organizations focused on long-term planning of human and natural habitat, automated and connected vehicle service providers, the Council on Environmental Quality, federal environmental legal council, and the USDOT. A key question to ask reviewers is what information should be revealed in environmental documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Incorporate the comments into a final draft. Task 4: Public and Stakeholder Involvement Develop a way to explain to the public and other stakeholders the procedures outlined in the analysis and how officials arrived at the determined outcomes. The product should be briefing papers, brochures and a FAQ sheet. This is intended to be an integrated and comprehensive public involvement plan. Evaluation of the public and stakeholder involvement plan should be done by conducting two focus groups of individuals substantially influenced by the procedures. Individuals would include appropriate people from business, freight and shipping, local government and the general public. The information from the focus groups will be used to modify the public involvement plan. The product will be a final effective public involvement plan that can be distributed to public officials and project proponents. Task 5: Acceptance Among Document Acceptance of Developed Guidance and Methodologies by Governing Regulatory Agencies. Distribute to and survey project proponents on use and acceptance of these plans and procedures as outlined in Tasks 3 and 4. Document the level of acceptance indicted by stakeholders along with the reason for their level of acceptance. Develop and disseminate a draft report of the plan, procedures and the assessment of acceptance for review, incorporate comments, and prepare a final report.

Urgency and Payoff

Today, companies are aggressively working to market and put into use this new technology. There is a strong climate in the United States and other developed countries to pursue new market niches and support strong economic growth. This may be the dawn of what could potentially be a rapid and significant change in our lives. Implementation of this technology may very well reshape our cities. Hence, we must make the effort to get in front of this transforming turn in or world lest we suffer delays to future transportation plans and projects. Having a single widely accepted standard procedure, in what can be characterized as a subjective area of analyses, will save planners and project proponents a significant amount of money over individual trial and error. A well thought out and easily explained process will also gain the public trust—saving precious human and monetary resources. Transportation officials will also be able to quickly adjust theoretical application of secondary and cumulative effects to best fit field observations. Such work can easily be shared throughout the country.

Suggested By

Martin Palmer Washington State DOT

[email protected]