Develop a focused outreach plan that identifies all stakeholders, the message appropriate for each stakeholder and the method in which you will reach the stakeholders when embarking on a connected vehicle project.

Experience with outreach and showcasing activities during the Safety Pilot Model Deployment in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Date Posted

Safety Pilot Model Deployment: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Future Connected Vehicle Activities

Summary Information

The Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot was a research program that demonstrated the readiness of DSRC-based connected vehicle safety applications for nationwide deployment. The vision of the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Program was to test connected vehicle safety applications, based on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications systems using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology, in real-world driving scenarios in order to determine their effectiveness at reducing crashes and to ensure that the devices were safe and did not unnecessarily distract motorists or cause unintended consequences.

The Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot was part of a major scientific research program run jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and its research and development partners in private industry. This research initiative was a multi-modal effort led by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with research support from several agencies, including Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This one-year, real-world deployment was launched in August 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The deployment utilized connected vehicle technology in over 2,800 vehicles and at 29 infrastructure sites at a total cost of over $50 million dollars in order to test the effectiveness of the connected vehicle crash avoidance systems. Overall, the Safety Pilot Program was a major success and has led the USDOT to initiate rulemaking that would propose to create a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) to require V2V communication capability for all light vehicles and to create minimum performance requirements for V2V devices and messages.

Given the magnitude of this program and the positive outcomes generated, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center conducted a study sponsored by the ITS JPO to gather observations and insights from the Safety Pilot Model Deployment. This report represents an analysis of activities across all stages of the Safety Pilot Model Deployment including scoping, acquisitions, planning, execution, and evaluation. The analysis aimed to identify specific accomplishments, effective activities and strategies, activities or areas needing additional effort, unintended outcomes, and any limitations and obstacles encountered throughout the Model Deployment. It also assessed the roles of organizations and the interactions among these organizations in the project. Findings were used to develop recommendations for use in future deployments of connected vehicle technology. Information for this analysis was gathered from a combination of over 70 participant interviews and a review of program documentation. It is anticipated that findings from this study will be valuable to future USDOT research programs and early adopters of connected vehicle technology.

The report contains numerous lessons across many topics, including program management, outreach and showcase, experiment setup, DSRC device development, device deployment and monitoring, and data management.

Lessons Learned

The Test Conductor of the connected vehicle safety pilot model deployment (SPMD) was tasked with developing and implementing an Outreach Plan, intended to disseminate results of the program and acquire stakeholder feedback. The plan outlined an approach for engaging stakeholders and reaching the general public through the development of various promotional materials and participation in numerous conferences and events.

A key outreach activity was the highly successful launch event, signifying the start of the Safety Pilot Model Deployment on August 21, 2012. This high-profile, premiere event was hosted in Ann Arbor, MI and included leaders from various industry segments, there to witness the unveiling of the technology and the program. Guests included the USDOT Secretary of Transportation, the Governor of Michigan, and many other industry representatives. The successful launch drew national recognition for Safety Pilot and included real-time coverage by major media outlets such as the Today Show and CNBC. The launch was a stellar success for numerous reasons including careful preparation and invitation of key political figures; development of a compelling story; close collaboration between the USDOT, Test Conductor team, and OEMs; and most importantly allowing the media to participate in an interactive demonstration of V2V technologies. The outreach and showcase efforts were an important part of the project and were considered a great success. As a result, the Safety Pilot project was recognized both nationally and internationally.

  • Review the outreach and engagement plan with the project team and obtain buy-in on the levels of outreach needed for each stakeholder. Periodically review the plan to ensure that the types and levels of outreach selected for each stakeholder are appropriate.
  • Develop a full complement of materials in advance of the pilot launch, such as talking points, project presentations, FAQs, press kits, and fact sheets. This will help to establish and maintain one consistent message.
  • Define a process for handling, tracking, and documenting media requests. Ensure that it is agreed upon by all team members. Designate points of contact to serve as media liaisons.
  • Consider hiring a public relations agency to work directly with the project team to be actively engaged in outreach activities, such as monitoring media coverage, developing responses to media inquiries, anticipating media needs, and developing creative content with sensitive information.
  • Provide guidance to project partners regarding their interactions with the media, particularly if communications regarding the program are sensitive.
  • Include a well-organized, high-profile launch event, and dedicate sufficient resources to this effort. Be prepared to maintain momentum throughout the project by establishing a plan to use a variety of tools to support the interests and needs of various stakeholders and audiences. After the prominent launch event, be sure to follow-up with other high visibility elements, to increase recognition of ongoing activities.
  • Implement performance measures to gage the impacts of particular outreach strategies. In cases where resources are constrained, evaluation tools could determine what types of media are most effective for reaching the target audience.