December 2, 2021
Maryland’s Vision for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) is to uphold and enhance a safe, efficient and equitable transportation future by delivering collaborative and leading-edge CAV solutions.
Maryland is open for business and eager to realize the life-saving and economic benefits of CAV technology, while ensuring safety for all. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) believe local jurisdictions are critical to adopting CAV technologies and to that end have taken deliberate steps to empower them to make informed decisions about how to adopt CAV technologies.
In March 2020 and March 2021, surveys were disseminated to jurisdictions across the state to learn what types and levels of resources and engagement might help them with planning for and integrating CAV technologies into their communities. The survey results led MDOT and MDP to host educational outreach webinars in June 2021 to provide local agencies and professionals across the state with resources about CAV technology, the original survey findings and available resources, including Maryland’s first CAV Strategic Framework. This information was meant to better acquaint jurisdictions and their communities with this life-saving and mobility-enhancing technology and mode of transportation.
During the webinars, MDOT and MDP also released the CAV Toolkit for Maryland Local Jurisdictions. The toolkit includes a list of recommended actions for jurisdictions to consider as they begin, or continue, their journey in the adoption of CAV technologies.
The toolkit is broken out into three categories of actions that jurisdictions may take: 1) baseline; 2) medium investment; and 3) high investment. Depending on a jurisdiction’s current roles and responsibilities, one or more of the categories may apply. As noted, not all recommendations in the toolkit will be applicable, as they span a breadth of initiatives from policy to digital ecosystems. The recommendations include a wide breadth of opportunities and limitations of CAV technologies that should be considered across planning, land use development, workforce, and cybersecurity, among many other topics.
Throughout the webinars, the local jurisdictions identified a few recommendations that were more important for them. The definition of CAV included in the first section of the toolkit helped them understand the breadth of impact of this emerging technology. CAV definitions are often fuzzy to those not entrenched in this field, as varied terminology is used across public forums. Some jurisdictions were not aware, for example, that some CAVs are already on the roads today (e.g., personal delivery devices or PDDs) and found that seeing the differences in the vehicles themselves opened a whole new set of opportunities they had not yet considered.
Another topic of interest included parking policies, as CAV may operate more in a “drop off” business model, which in turn could affect parking revenues if there is no longer a need for parking. Related to parking policies is the real possibility of zero-occupancy vehicles driving in circles to avoid parking, increasing vehicular traffic. Curb space use was raised as another area where jurisdictions believe they will have to implement policies or new engineering design guidance to support emerging vehicle types – from PDDs to on-road delivery vehicles and shuttles.
Outside of the webinars, local jurisdictions have noted their appreciation of the toolkit in discussing both potential barriers and pitfalls as well as the opportunities CAV technologies can bring to their regions. The toolkit, to them, serves as a bridge between what is frequently considered a “doomsday scenario” in traditional planning narratives (i.e., those that reject the benefits of CAV) in contrast to the sometimes-overhyped opportunities promoted by stakeholders with their own agendas.
Local jurisdictions have recognized the solid foundation of the toolkit, which provides the necessary material for them to make informed decisions. This is important as CAV technologies are evolving and subject to change and new regulations are still being developed.
As technologies evolve, the Maryland CAV Working Group will continue to provide a dedicated venue for Marylanders to discuss, learn about and coordinate with state agencies, local jurisdictions and nonprofits so they are aware of CAV technologies as they are integrated into our communities.
Carole Delion is Division Chief, Connected & Automated Transportation Systems (CATS) for the Maryland Department of Transportation.