Center for Automotive Research offers municipalities short-term recommendations for indicating their openness to the testing and validation of connected and automated vehicles.

Report discusses potential approaches to attract CAV testing activities to your region as well as potential solutions to regional mobility challenges and funding opportunities to pursue.

Date Posted

Opportunities to Encourage On-road Connected and Automated Vehicle Testing: Recommendations for the Saginaw Region

Summary Information

Saginaw County, Michigan is keen to position itself as a community highly engaged with connected, automated, and mobility technologies. The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) collaborated with Saginaw Future, the region's economic development organization, to provide recommendations for pursuing an on-road Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) test environment and ideas for improving regional mobility overall. To address the questions proposed to Saginaw, two primary research methods were employed:

  1. A literature review of emerging technologies concerning both connected and automated vehicle technologies was performed, and applicable local, state and federal funding opportunities to assist with any CAV-readiness activities were evaluated. Researchers also investigated other activities, such as training law enforcement and emergency services, and public education campaigns, that other communities have employed to ensure the safe rollout of CAV technology.
  2. Stakeholder interviews were conducted with stakeholders that represented a diverse range of people – including public sector, private sector, and academic representatives – who play an influential role on the economy and/or transportation system.

The following short-term strategies were identified for the successful deployment of CAVs:

Launch Public Awareness Campaigns. As CAV technologies are discussed more and more outside of industry circles, the general public is increasingly curious as to how these technologies could impact their lives and work. Public education campaigns will help technology developers understand the public’s concerns and expectation of CAVs, and find ways to work with citizens to gradually overcome some of the most challenging aspects of operating CAV in urban environments. In October 2017, Waymo helped to launch Let’s Talk Self-Driving (, the first online public education campaign about connected and automated vehicles. This is a group effort from a group of professionals who are concerned about increasing public awareness about the way automated vehicles work and potential benefits associated with their operation. In addition, Columbus, OH, recipient of the U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge grant, recently announced the opening of the Smart Columbus Experience Center. The center's primary purpose is to expose citizens to the myriad of mobility and other smart technology options that exist.

Introduce First Responders to CAV With hands-on training. To increase public awareness on connected and automated vehicles, some cities have started collaborating with technology developers to launch training programs for first responders. Last year in Arizona, Waymo conducted on-site training for police officers and emergency workers to introduce their vehicles and review the safety features. Since then, a number of other cities have expressed interest in getting hands-on training on CAVs for first responders. One direct benefit of training programs is introducing people to the technology early on in its development, so that as the technology advances, it will be easier for first responders to keep up. The training programs can include:

  • Explanation of basic CAV technological aspects.
  • Reviews of CAV capabilities, limitations, benefits and threats.
  • Driving demonstrations.
  • Hands on training while driving with CAVs and to review how the automated vehicle responds to emergency vehicles.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), state transportation agencies should work with jurisdictions, law enforcement, federal agencies and other stakeholders to gather, organize and share information related to the development, design, testing, use and regulation of connected and automated vehicles technologies. Understanding these technologies will help law enforcement consider modifications to laws and regulations, update citation and crash report documents and databases with new definitions of the user and system, and implement a framework for insurance and liability regulations. With this approach, not only service providers would get training but also CAV technology developers will also get the opportunity to test automated vehicle responses to emergency vehicles and validate systems for detecting and yielding to enforcement vehicles.

Signal openness to the technology with local policy action. This can be accomplished by

  • maintaining CAV and mobility expertise within public agencies.
  • developing a vision for mobility and updating transportation policies to reflect that vision.
  • exploring use of incentive zoning and altering parking requirements such that shared vehicles or other mobility services are encouraged.

Identify a Range of Driving Scenarios. When exploring public roads for testing, communities should identify road segments that together constitute a wide range of road scenarios. Ideally, some of these roads would have the potential to be temporarily closed during agreed-upon times and would also offer driving scenarios that are challenging for automated vehicles. Agencies can work with local road commissions and companies to identify the most appropriate areas for validation.

  • Straight roads with one or two lanes of traffic.
  • Curved country roads with one lane of traffic.
  • Intersections (signalized, stop signs).
  • Highway exit and entrance ramps.
  • Three-mile segment of a highway with one curve.
  • Urban roads.
  • Varied road surface quality, from good to poor condition.
  • Varied levels of road crowns and banking.
  • Varied road slopes; from flat to hillier sections.

Dedicate space for vehicle storage. In the case where a company wishing to test on area roads is not based locally, a secure building where the testing company can store vehicles safely is helpful, assuming the testing company does not have garage space nearby. Such a building would protect the vehicle and sensitive equipment from weather and minimize back-and-forth driving from the testing area to potentially far away vehicle storage space.

Engage local citizens with information sessions. To generate awareness among local stakeholders as to the potential benefits and implications of CAV and mobility technologies, agencies could host information sessions to introduce these technologies to the local citizenry. Such public engagement activity could help familiarize them with its potential benefits and could also describe future autonomous vehicle scenarios. Part of these workshops could also clarify what may be expected of citizens, such as more carefully following traffic rules, signs, and using sidewalks for walking and bike lanes for biking.