Using a common work zone data specification has the potential to save lives.

During a USDOT Work Zone Data Exchange Project Workshop, stakeholders vocalized a need for an open work zone data specification to support work zone awareness for both automated driving system (ADS) and human drivers.

Date Posted

Background Information:

The U.S. DOT launched the Work Zone Data Exchange (WZDx) Project in March 2018, following a December 2017 Roundtable on Data for Automated Vehicle (AV) Safety that highlighted opportunities to facilitate the exchange and use of work zone data. Since then, the U.S. DOT and several state and local governments around the country have begun developing a WZDx specification, both to enable the safe integration of automated vehicles in the future and to improve road safety today. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) at the U.S. DOT are co-leading the early stages of the WZDx Project. Together, they held a WZDx Workshop on April 4, 2019 to help advance the project’s vision.

Summary Information:

Lessons learned from the workshop include:

  • Stakeholders support the idea that a simple, open specification for work zone data, broadly adopted, can save lives. Mapping active work zones can improve safety. Construction workers in particular can benefit from data that puts them “on the map,” making them visible in work zones, which can be high-risk environments. In addition, participants noted that these workers can provide real-time, on-the-ground information to make work zone data more complete and useful as a tool for improving safety. Incorporating this information about work zones into navigation apps and consumer maps can alert drivers to reduce speed and signal to AVs to transfer control to a human driver ahead of time.
  • Work zone data exchange can improve safety on the roads today and support the safe integration of ADS tomorrow. While some Workshop participants have been able to communicate the value of ubiquitous work zone data by focusing on the development of ADS, others have highlighted more immediate benefits related to safety and mobility. For example, work zone data exchange can improve worker safety and enhance navigation and routing, among other benefits.
  • Stakeholders have a strong preference for a free, open, non- proprietary common work zone data specification. Some workshop participants identified legal, political, and financial constraints with using proprietary data specifications. Several noted that the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), including its governance and norms, is a valuable model for the WZDx community. Experiences with GTFS validated the importance of starting with a clear use case that could be quickly implemented. Workshop participants also noted that a simple specification like GTFS can help lower the barriers to participation for resource-constrained agencies and be built out over time.
  • There is a need to broaden the scope of engaged stakeholders. Some participants noted that U.S. DOT had not yet fully tapped into the work zone ecosystem, which includes stakeholders ranging from construction workers to procurement and permitting offices. Culture changes are needed across this entire ecosystem to implement the WZDx vision successfully.
  • Work zone data exchange should be embraced as a community-based effort. Workshop participants outlined specific opportunities to promote the WZDx vision within their own organizations and communities, from engaging in public-private collaboration to hosting similar workshop-style convenings focused on local implementation.
  • A number of opportunities exist for U.S. DOT to play a role. Participants appreciated U.S. DOT’s current convening and facilitation role, and expressed a desire for this to continue. Participants also saw opportunities for U.S. DOT to help meet the needs of local and state governments. 
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