Influence of Autonomous and Partially Autonomous Vehicles on Minnesota Roads

Principal Investigator(s):

Rajesh Rajamani, Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Project summary:

This project focuses on experimental tests of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on highways and local roads in Minnesota. The project will provide detailed state-specific data characterizing AV performance that will inform the transportation community on implications for infrastructure maintenance, winter road maintenance, work zone guidelines, road safety, and traffic capacity. The experimental work makes use of the new AVs being purchased by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota (donated as a matching contribution to this project, exceeding $10,000 in value). The key aspects of the autonomous functions of the vehicle studied in this project will be as follows:

i) Winter performance and winter road maintenance: The ability of the lane-keeping-system (LKS) to function in Minnesota winter weather will be studied, since all current LKS systems rely on cameras to find the lateral position of the vehicle with respect to the lane markers. The capabilities of the camera-based system to function in the presence of partially snow-covered and fully snow-covered environments will be documented. This data will provide answers to the question, "Will the level of winter road maintenance needed have to significantly go up to accommodate AVs?"

ii) Characterization of the driving performance of AVs and their likely influence on safety, traffic flow, and fuel economy: Collection and analysis of data comparing AVs and human drivers in terms of lane keeping, time gaps, shock wave propagation, acceleration/deceleration magnitudes, and performance in low, moderate, and heavy traffic.

iii) Handling of work zones: The ability of the AVs to handle work zones which may have conflicting or multiple sets of lane markers in their vicinity, may require lane changes, may require other responses to work zone signs, and may even require transition to manual driving. The data from this project will help inform the transportation community about how guidelines on work zones may need to change and whether lane markers and signs in work zones would have to become more precise in order to support AVs.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2022002
  • Start date: 05/2021
  • Project status: Active
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Connected and automated vehicles