Identifying the Opportunities and Obstacles of Connected and Automated Vehicles in Rural Minnesota: Community Engagement in Greater Minnesota


Frank Douma, Adeel Lari, Daniel McNiel

June 2019

Report no. TPEC 2019-02

Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technologies have advanced toward implementation stages and will eventually arrive on Minnesota roadways. The advent of CAV technology highlights the importance of facilitating policy conversations that will help plan for the uncertainties of these new modes of transportation. Rural communities in Minnesota experience distinct barriers to safe and affordable transit and have the potential to benefit greatly from the advancements of CAV technology. Automated vehicles present new ways of improving transportation safety, increasing accessibility for transportation disadvantaged populations and spurring economic growth. However, there is growing need for elected officials and city staff to initiate advanced planning regarding CAVs while these technologies continue to be developed and tested, as without policy intervention and intentional planning, CAV technologies have the undesired potential to perpetuate inequities especially in rural areas, where transit service can be very limited, or non-existent. Rural areas will likely require the development of different CAV transit models that blend the functions of high speed and low speed public transit. Examining the challenges that rural transit operators currently face in Greater Minnesota can help to guide the development of policy that promotes rural driverless transit.

At the University of Minnesota, the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness Program (TPEC) has been examining equity issues and opportunities related to CAV technology since 2014. The TPEC program focuses on conducting research, creating tools for policymakers, and engaging in outreach to better understand the relationship between transportation and economic development in Minnesota. In the Spring of 2017, TPEC researchers organized a CAV Task Force to identify how various SDV deployment strategies could improve mobility and access for transportation dependent Minnesotans. The work of the Task Force highlighted the need for further outreach and engagement with communities in Greater Minnesota to better understand considerations for implementing CAVs in rural contexts. The TPEC team then conducted community discussions with municipalities throughout the state to better understand how CAV technologies present opportunities to improve safety, accessibility, and equity in Greater Minnesota. The insights gained from these community discussions can help assist Minnesota lawmakers design future CAV policy that is responsive to the needs of residents.

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