Stephen Gaj, Federal Highway Administration
Gaj explained that the Federal Highway Administration established an Office of Asset Management in 1999. That office then formed the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which established a task force on asset management. Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21)1 then went into effect as federal law in 2012. He clarified that the state Departments of Transportation own the roadways; the Federal Highway Administration simply advises them how to use their funding. It can be challenging, he continued, to convince states to think about sustainable asset management. MAP-21 defines asset management as “a strategic and systematic process of operating, maintaining, and improving physical assets, with a focus on engineering and economic analysis based upon quality information, to identify a structured sequence of maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the assets at minimum practicable cost.”
MAP-21 requires that each state “develop a risk-based asset management plan for the National Highway System to improve or preserve the condition of the assets and the performance of the system.” Gaj commented that this plan must include
pavement and bridge inventory and conditions, although the consideration of additional infrastructure assets is encouraged. The plan must also include “strategies that lead to a program of projects that would make progress toward achievement of the state targets for asset condition and performance of the National Highway System.” In other words, the states are held accountable and must be able to explain how they used their investments to improve the overall system. The plans are expected to focus on life cycle planning, conduct risk-management analysis, and retain a financial plan, Gaj explained. Michael McGrath, McGrath Analytics, LLC, asked when the public will be able to see the asset management plans, as well as the schedule for smart infrastructure functions and other infrastructure maintenance, from all 50 states. Gaj responded that the states’ plans, as they are completed, will be available on the Federal Highway Asset Management2 and the AASHTO3 websites. He added that because the associated regulation had not yet gone into effect, the actual state projects would not be posted and some states would not have a complete inventory yet. He described these plans as more complex than roadmaps because they both address risk and detail investment strategies in writing.
Carl Andersen, Department of Transportation
Andersen described the state of connected vehicles as an environment in which data can be transferred between vehicles and infrastructure (and eventually other road users). In vehicle-to-vehicle communication, basic safety messages, which include vehicle location, destination, and speed, among other parameters, are transmitted at a rate of 10 times per second so as to prevent one vehicle from occupying the same spot on the road as another vehicle at a given point in time (i.e., vehicle-to-vehicle safety critical applications). He added that the Society of Automotive Engineers’ standard J27354 establishes the message dictionary set for this technology and that the United States is working with Japan and the European Union to harmonize these advancements. There are also safety applications on the infrastructure side—for example, data about timing of traffic light phases or the geometry and surface conditions on a curved road can be sent to the vehicle, and the vehicle understands its own dynamics and can make a decision about the appropriate speed to engage at that particular moment. If vehicles encounter
4 See SAE Standard J2735, at SAE International, “Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Message Set Dictionary,” last updated March 30, 2016, https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j2735_201603/.
something unexpected, they can also transmit a message to local agencies or to third-party providers about icy conditions, a car accident, or a pothole, for instance.
Andersen clarified that connected vehicles are different from autonomous (“self-driving”) vehicles, which could lead to safer roads over time but could also increase congestion and fuel consumption. He also clarified that vehicles built after 2012 already have a number of automated features (e.g., automated cruise control, lane-keeping assist), and, in the future, vehicles will have additional levels of automated features. He highlighted the Smart City Challenge that considers how to use multiple types of data efficiently to transform surface transportation (e.g., parking) with the support of industry and cities. He noted that standards, interfaces, and security are all essential to making such technology functional and safe.
In response to a question from Mike Rigdon, Institute from Defense Analyses (retired), about the period of time in which vehicles with a mix of capabilities occupy the road, Andersen noted that this is where the states play an important role in serving as early deployers of connected vehicles. He estimated that it would take 40 years for a full build-out of the connected vehicle technology, if and when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develops a mandate. In response to a question from a participant about safety and the enforcement of traffic laws, Andersen noted that 35,000 people die each year on highways, and the Federal Highway Administration and all of the Departments of Transportation work hard to eventually reduce this number to zero. He added that driving laws are fairly well enforced, and that many problems on the road lie more with the individuals than the police. Connected vehicles offer one way to reduce the number of distracted drivers, according to Andersen. General Paul Kern, The Cohen Group, asked whether the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) operational missions will be tracked with this new technology, and Andersen suggested that industry will likely develop an onboard unit with a switch to deactivate the transmitter in such instances. He added that DoD, the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center are engaged in a discussion about critical infrastructure. Jesus de la Garza, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), asked whether a connected vehicle with the ability to communicate information to a local agency about a pothole would also report a high speed, and Andersen noted that the technologies incorporate privacy by design; otherwise, no one would drive such a car. Haydn Wadley, University of Virginia, added that speed limits are unlikely to exist in the future, and Andersen reiterated that this type of progress would not occur for many decades. The future that he envisions would also be without lane markings, signs, and traffic lights, since the vehicles would negotiate with one another.
McGrath asked how federal and state governments would regulate autonomous vehicles, and Andersen said that he does not foresee the federal government taking over the states’ authorities. The federal role would likely be limited to offering
guidance and establishing a model. Industry, according to Andersen, would possibly prefer a federal system to minimize the changes of different regulations across states. He added that the insurance companies are currently working with the federal government; he expects rates to increase in the coming decades before they peak and decrease. Insurance companies may also eventually need to develop a new business model to accommodate these vehicle technologies. He reiterated that while the federal government can set standards and develop a framework for the flow of data, it would be the responsibility of industry to continue to develop applications.
Denise Swink, independent consultant, wondered about the portion of the population with a passion for driving that may not be interested in automation. Andersen responded that this is a generational perspective: he cited Millennials as a group that favors mobility over driving and the elderly as a group possibly unable to drive but in need of transportation as potential avid users of this technology. Peter Matthews, USTRANSCOM, suggested that Millennials in rural settings are still quite interested in driving and may even disable any new technology in their vehicles, owing to a distrust in the federal government’s use of the vehicle’s data. Andersen cautioned that those who do not accept the technology in the coming decades will likely be prohibited from driving on interstates, as safety and mobility will have been transformed.
Rigdon asked about the role of the American Trial Lawyers Association in the deployment of this technology, but Andersen does not believe that they have the power to prevent this progress. He added that hospitals and auto repair shops are likely to see a substantial reduction in work as a result of these vehicle technologies, which would create job loss for many people. Other workshop participants expressed concerns about increased road congestion, although Andersen countered that vehicles may be able to travel faster and closer together with new technologies. Andersen concluded by encouraging workshop participants to go to the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office website5 for more information about and training on connected vehicles.
Matthews recapped his overview of national defense programs and reiterated his confidence in the ability of the current infrastructure and the current industry to deliver forces from their installations to their ports. However, he noted that there is always room for improvement. He encouraged people to gather together, register, and react to this information before moving forward. For example, he emphasized the value of revisiting the Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET)
to evaluate its power projection platforms and its primary strategic seaports (e.g., not all bridges are equal, and some could create greater navigational problems than others, while rail inspections could likely be conducted with greater scrutiny). He emphasized the value of being proactive, especially with infrastructure from the 1950s-1970s that is nearing the end of its usable life, instead of reacting to major problems after they occur. De la Garza noted that the most recent American Road and Transportation Builders Association newsletter cited 59,000 deficient bridges and wondered whether STRAHNET has the locations of those deficient bridges in place. Matthews said that that is an issue that needs to be reviewed, and he reiterated the importance of considering the many levels of potential effects when designing and acquiring new systems.
Robert Moser, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, noted that the Army Corps of Engineers is improving its use of asset management for a complex inventory of facilities. He explained that the Corps is somewhat confined in its approach because it does not have the ability to do big data analytics on a huge inventory of tens of thousands of facilities made using similar materials and design practices—it has a unique inventory of structures, all of which are in different areas and designed in different ways. In addition to the challenge of asset management, the Corps has difficulty relating the consequence to the frequency in those facilities because there are many political factors that still drive decisions. Some of the consequences are substantial, however, if any of those structures fail. There are also a number of specific maintenance issues that do not fit into a standardized management plan, which will be challenging for the Corps. He explained that the Corps does not yet understand the deterioration mechanisms well enough to directly quantify damage and progression in damage but that this is the subject of significant internal and extramural research activity. He commented that new analytical tools and high-performance computing would not automatically solve all of these problems; the Corps still sees value in expert elicitation and experience in understanding outcomes of deterioration. He reiterated that there are many divisions within the Corps, some of which focus on the financial aspects of asset management and others that focus more on life safety assets. He encouraged the continued exploration of avenues in which to apply new materials and coatings in different sectors of transportation to save both money and time in the laboratory.
Victor Li, University of Michigan, shared that academicians may have been focusing on the wrong problem—by trying to make ultra-high-strength concrete6—over the past 20 years. The 2-day workshop revealed that much of the deterioration
6 It is important to point out that there are still many academicians who do not focus on developing concrete with higher strengths, but are focused on improving the durability of the concrete by understanding deterioration mechanisms, improving concrete resistance to chloride ingress, and improving testing procedures for use in quality control.
in the infrastructure is related to cracking and corrosion, and higher compressive strength in concrete does not improve such conditions in the infrastructure. Enhancing the ductility of materials is a better way to improve infrastructure conditions, according to Li. He acknowledged the obstacles that exist to making ductile, resilient, durable material (especially in a conservative industry that is sensitive to cost) but encouraged researchers to persist since it can make a substantial difference in the conditions of the infrastructure. He added that work must begin now because it will take a long time for such material to enter the full stock of U.S. infrastructure. He noted that many of the problems in infrastructure are a result of deteriorating materials; these issues are relevant for government agencies, private industry, and academia and span a wide variety of infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, ports, and dams, that have been or will be built with concrete. He reiterated that the technology itself is not the major barrier; it is instead the communication, collaboration, and funding of the technology. He encouraged workshop participants to assign their organizations’ best scientists to this problem and to set plans in action.7
Matthews reiterated that one of the challenges is adopting cutting-edge technologies in a conservative construction world. He also noted that much of this infrastructure is funded by state or federal funds that are issued annually, without consideration for the potential long-term return on investments. According to Matthews, that system would need to be realigned to take advantage of new technologies.
De la Garza asked Gaj about the Federal Highway Administration’s perspective of DoD’s ability to be ready for deployment. Gaj reiterated that the Federal Highway Administration collaborates with DoD and that data are both available and shared between the two organizations. He supported Matthews’s assertions that the agencies could think about incentives and work more with industry in order to move technology forward. He also encouraged the Federal Highway Administration to spread this message so that there is political support for areas that need to be fixed.
Andersen reiterated that the Federal Highway Administration does not own roads, and so he wondered whether the Corps evaluates proposed changes to AASHTO’s Green Book (the guide for road design) to ensure that the designs meet DoD’s needs. Matthews responded that the Highways for National Defense program is fully engrained in AASHTO’s work.
7 Between the time the workshop was held and the time this proceedings was published, important changes have occurred and new opportunities have arisen: Li explained that the nation is poised for major investments into renewing its civil infrastructure. He cautioned against repeating the use of concrete that would lead to deterioration and the need for a major wave of repairs in another couple of decades. He added that the technology to produce truly durable, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure now exists.
Referring back to Li’s suggestions to focus on innovation, Rosario Gerhardt, Georgia Institute of Technology, encouraged connected vehicle developers to focus on making roads smarter by adding sensors, for example. Andersen acknowledged that plans for such innovation are already in place, as the Federal Highway Administration is working with the Federation of European Highway Research Laboratories on a program called Forever Open Roads.8 The concept of this program is that roads need to be flexible enough to adapt to climate and load changes. Li expressed concern that more durable roads could lead to faster driving, given that there will be fewer reconstruction zones. However, he emphasized that such concerns should not stop innovation.
McGrath closed the workshop hoping that the discussion of the previous 2 days would elevate attention to the importance of infrastructure and promote more collaboration in this area of intersecting interests between the materials research community and the civil engineering community.
8 For more information about this initiative, see TRIMIS, “FOR: Forever Open Road,” https://trimis.ec.europa.eu/project/forever-open-road, accessed January 2, 2018.