Not that long ago, the vision of self-driving cars in our streets seemed like the far distant future. Meanwhile, this possibility has become tangible. Faster reaction times, shorter distances and an improved traffic flow could make for fewer traffic jams, fewer accidents and lower emissions. The expectations set to this new technology are high and in the meantime it is clear that automated driving will influence our mobility in the future. However, until these opportunities become real, we must tackle a number of challenges. Apart from vehicle sensors, the link to road infrastructure could lead to a safe implementation, especially in the higher-level traffic network.
This field of development and a clear understanding of the new challenges to infrastructure will increase the safety of automated driving. This might also change the core business of road authorities substantially. Even if self-driving cars are still a thing of the future, connection and continuous automation are already a reality, and have an effect on the work of road authorities and traffic planners.
As always, the new technology brings along new challenges, which ARNDT IDC tries to anticipate by participating in research projects. ARNDT IDC can draw on its comprehensive experience with infrastructure for this. Within research projects, we are able to look further into this this interface between infrastructure and connected and automated mobility. These learnings and experience from research projects we in turn share with our clients within our consulting projects on traffic infrastructure.
In addition we are honoured to contribute to shaping the framework for this new technology as a member of the Expert Council for Automated Driving of the Austrian Ministry for Traffic, Infrastructure and Technology (BMVIT).
Challenges for infrastructure and its managers
In terms of minimum interaction with other road user and the most clearly defined traffic space the initial implementation will happen on highways. There are no intersections with cross traffic, no pedestrians, cyclists or oncoming traffic. However this also means that drivers can travel at high speeds. Also on highways there are still a number of challenges to be solved. A few examples are:
- Road routing design: For visual sensors to function reliably at speeds of 130 km/h, visibility in curves and inclinations must be guaranteed. This is not the case with current routing standards.
- Construction sites on highways: Signs and markings that are unclear make for a special challenge.
- Depending on the circumstances, it will be necessary to create new guidelines for road markings, guiding systems and traffic signs
Practical example: Truck Platooning
One possible practical case for autonomous driving in the commercial sector is the so-called “truck platooning”. This entails connecting several trucks with each other, which can then drive energy-efficiently with minimal space between them. There are already experiments with this transport method in the field. But here, again, this use case has many challenges in relation to infrastructure:
- Ramps and highway exits – how can we guarantee that safe exits are possible with truck platoons?
- Higher loads on engineering structures
- Rutting and deformations due to trucks driving directly after one another
- New special requirements for emergency stopping bays
- Fire protection in tunnels does not provide for several burning trucks
These have been examples where ARNDT IDC contributes the necessary experience to successfully tackle these questions. We cannot plan the long-term future of automated driving in detail yet. But ARNDT IDC is already at the front line of this development, to ensure that traffic infrastructure projects take this technology into account.