Departments of transportation are consistently exploring new ways to enhance mobility and create more efficiencies. The challenges remain strong as technologies rapidly change, workforce demands shift and the pace of change continues to accelerate. The good news is DOTs and municipalities are finding proactive ways to ready their policies, programs and infrastructure. This issue of Transportation Point features articles from three leaders in emerging technology adoption:
- The City of Columbus, Ohio
- The Florida Department of Transportation
- The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
From their insights, we can identify the following new realities for DOTs:
The importance of emerging technologies is being elevated within the DOT. Identifying and incorporating emerging technologies is no longer solely an IT department function. New technologies are being assigned the same level of importance as planning, safety or traffic engineering and operations divisions.
For example, FDOT and PennDOT have given emerging technologies prominence on their organizational charts. FDOT has an assistant secretary leading the DOT’s Division of Strategic Development. PennDOT has a director-level position heading up the Office of Transformational Technology. Both agencies’ articles provide frameworks and best practices for elevating the importance of emerging technologies that other DOTs can draw upon.
The topic of emerging technologies is broader than autonomous vehicles. When we think of the phrase emerging technologies, images of self-driving and connected vehicles come to mind, but the topic covers much, much more. Categories include:
- Mining, receiving and interpreting vehicle, driver and roadway data
- Determining how best to apply insights gained from newfound access to big data
- Incorporating all modes, such as advanced air mobility and personal delivery devices
- Building a charging station network and other infrastructure to support electric vehicles
- Implementing emerging technologies in an equitable way
Each category has potential to enhance mobility, safety and efficiency.
Incorporating emerging technologies requires a strategic plan. The three thought leaders featured in this issue have detailed plans. Smart Columbus provides a roadmap for using emerging technology to advance mobility in ways that create greater equity and higher quality of life for residents. FDOT has developed a long-range plan that meets current needs while helping the DOT better prepare to pivot and respond to the disruption and rapid change emerging technologies create. PennDOT’s plan is to make exploring and implementing emerging technologies as seamless and easy as possible for the department.
Best practices in developing strategic plans include:
- Collecting input from all DOT districts to ensure buy-in
- Including actionable items, such as building a data platform to collect and use vehicle data, creating policies for laying fiber-optic lines during construction projects, building a workforce development and retention program or adopting the Federal Highway Administration’s Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures, part of the Every Day Counts 4 technology initiative
- Asking for input from a broad group of public and private stakeholders and influencers
Planning is paramount. The nation’s fleet of vehicles isn’t going to turnover overnight. It will take decades before we see full-scale adoption. That gives DOTs time to develop and implement strategic plans but starting now is important.
Taking advantage of these best practices
Reading the best practices and lessons learned in this issue can be invaluable to DOTs no matter where they are on the adoption timeline. Now is the time to take advantage of these and other best practices and move our nation’s transportation system closer to realizing its mission and vision of greater safety, efficiency, mobility and quality of life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Krueger is an internationally recognized leader in the connected vehicle program who specializes in emerging technologies in transportation. With more than 20 years of experience, Greg supports the firm’s intelligent transportation systems programs and clients nationwide. He works with both public- and private-sector clients to facilitate the deployment of connected and automated vehicles on the nation’s roadways. Contact him at LinkedIn.
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