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Looking to build your connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) program? These five tips will help your organization navigate the evolving smart mobility landscape to find solutions that benefit users the most.
CAV programs have the potential to make traffic safe, efficient and less harmful to the environment. But building a program from the ground up can be complex. Between rapidly changing technology, stakeholder coordination and funding challenges, leveraging smart mobility requires a thoughtful planning process where user needs are always top of mind.
After assisting the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) in establishing its strategic CAV program, we looked back to find what drove success the most. When we reflected on everything from pre-planning to the completion of the CAV strategic plan, these 5 keys stood out above the rest:
1. A well-balanced team leads to a well-rounded plan
Identifying the key roles and critical points of contact across and outside the organization gives everyone their say in the strategy, preventing logjams that can occur during review and approval phases.
Build with the long-term in mind
LADOTD fielded representatives from different departments and day-to-day functions to ensure every detail would be covered. Program leaders also sought out staff who had solid institutional knowledge and could commit to the long-term duration of the plan.
With how fast CAV technology changes, requirements like these can be useful in keeping pace. Experienced members familiar with the inner workings of an agency, customer needs and external partnerships will more quickly recognize opportunities you can capitalize on. The long-term commitment also prevents backslide caused by team turnover or members phasing in and out of the project.
Identify a champion
Progress will only move so fast or far without an executive stakeholder. At LADOTD, we had Stephen Glascock, ITS director, to champion our cause at every turn. Having Steve’s perspective during visioning workshops and action plan reviews enriched the plan, and his intimate knowledge made it easier to get stakeholder buy-in when it was time to make the vision a reality.
Collaborate with external partners
Large-scale CAV projects should involve as many external partnerships as possible. Our team worked closely with The City of Baton Rouge and Louisiana Transportation Research Center to bring forth a plan best suited for residents. Combining the perspectives, datasets and ideas in a shared vision kept us on track toward making roads safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
2. Strategy planning should be interactive, iterative and agile
When you have your team assembled, think of ways to engage that array of voices to effectively shape your vision. Drawing out the most valuable input from the group might require multiple meetings and a variety of tactics.
We started with interactive workshops where we used polls, surveys, design thinking exercises and open discussions to create a healthy back-and-forth around priority needs and goals. As we identified potential projects, we invited guest speakers and reviewed plans from around the world to learn how others solved implementation challenges LADOTD could soon encounter.
Stay flexible, because things change fast
We were knee-deep in our strategy when the FCC voted to reallocate the 5.9 GHz spectrum, which was reserved for connected vehicle communications when we started, away from transportation safety. It was a stark reminder that unexpected shifts in policy, agency needs or emerging technology are always lurking. Designing plans iteratively with flexibility to take these impacts in stride could keep them from falling apart.
3. Focus on actionable, applicable projects
Homing in on actionable projects might unlock funds more easily than your most ambitious ideas. Even better, integrate the CAV program into existing projects. We found opportunities to infuse CAV applications for projects already in LADOTD’s pipeline, including: I-12 and I-10 queue warning systems, curve speed warning at various statewide locations, dynamic speed harmonization systems, smart truck parking, and deployment of CAV work zone technologies.
Emphasize funding opportunities to maintain progress
Always have an eye on ways to sustain future projects. LADOTD’s CAV program established mechanisms to dedicate staff and time toward unlocking future funds and potentially establish dedicated funding for the department. Other program-level projects, like continued CAV technology support, data management practices and even non-technology-related efforts around innovation were added to keep the program charging forward and building on successful implementations.
4. It all starts with CAV technology acumen
CAV technologies evolve at warp speed. Knowing what’s available and what’s on the way will keep your team on the inside track for the latest and greatest opportunities. When LADOTD identified challenges around CAV technology acumen, we formalized LADTOD’s existing CAV technology team to serve as a primer for the strategy.
The consistent web meetings and workshops injected momentum that carried over to later strategy planning phases. Using the USDOT’s list of CAV applications as a framework, we looked at the technology LADOTD had on hand, available applications and those that would hit the market soon. That knowledge base empowered the team to always seek out the ideal CAV applications – even as the tech landscape changed.
5. The user experience is paramount
Harnessing CAV’s power can make transportation safe, accessible and equitable. But with so many applications out there – and more on the way – choices can be overwhelming. Always take the time to ask yourself: What is going to benefit the people driving, riding and living near our transport system the most?