In the future, vehicles equipped with automated driving
systems (ADS) that drive us instead of us driving them will become a reality.
These vehicles will integrate onto roadways and may change operational
interactions with other vehicles in certain scenarios. Public safety officials,
such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency medical personnel
routinely interact with a broad spectrum of public and private vehicles to
protect people, to investigate crimes or crashes, and to save lives. This
research effort sought to determine the following:
- What are the common scenarios where public
safety officials must engage in several different interactions and interaction
types with a broad spectrum of public and private vehicles?
- What are the protocols used during those
scenarios and the different interactions and interaction types?
- Do variables such as weather, roadway type,
geometry, or vehicle type impact current protocols used in those scenarios?
- How may the current operations change due to the
introduction of ADS-equipped vehicles in driverless operation (DO)?
- Are there opportunities where the interactions
of public safety officials could be improved with the introduction of
ADS-equipped vehicles in DO?
An extensive review of available literature and
consultations with subject matter experts allowed the research team to
determine the most common scenarios where public safety officials interact with
other vehicles. Those scenarios included responding to an incident, securing an
incident scene, conducting traffic direction and control, conducting a traffic
stop, investigating an abandoned or unattended vehicle, and performing
stabilization and patient extrication. Each of these operations were broken
down task-by-task using a Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA). The HTAs were
converted into task diagrams to illustrate the procedures.
A combined effort between the Virginia Tech Transportation
Institute (VTTI) and the University of Massachusetts Traffic Safety Research
Program (UMassSafe), a division of the UMass Transportation Center (UMTC), conducted
focus groups and one-on-one interviews with a total of 79 public safety officials.
The participants were law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency medical
services (EMS) personnel from 22 different U.S. states and 3 Canadian
In the interviews and focus groups, the research teams
showed the participants three of the six different scenarios and posed
questions regarding how accurate the research team’s depictions of the
operations in the videos were. These responses allowed the research team to
fill in any gaps in knowledge or highlight any potential differences in operations
that may exist depending on department size, department type, or geographical
In the final portion of each interview, the research team
showed a video that introduced participants to the idea of ADS-equipped
vehicles in DO (referred to in the focus groups and interviews as vehicles
equipped with automation in driverless mode). Subsequent questions focused on
the scenarios the groups had previously discussed, and they were asked how the
advent of those systems might change their current procedures. Responses were
typically provided in the form of questions or hypotheticals. Much of the
feedback provided allowed the research team to deduce the suggested needs of
public safety officials as well as potential opportunities for the technology to
benefit their current procedures. Each interview closed with questions
regarding which scenario may be afforded the greatest opportunity for
improvement when considering ADS-equipped vehicles in DO as well as the extent
of their experience with vehicles that are currently sometimes referred to as “autonomous.”
The recorded interviews were transcribed and then placed in worksheets,
so themes could be coded. Responses were placed in “bins” that correlated with
a specific theme or idea. Each theme or idea was then associated with an
interaction type: direct, indirect, or informational. Direct interactions
involve a physical interaction between a public safety official and a vehicle
either by touching it or using a tool to touch it. Indirect interactions are when
a public safety official manipulates a vehicle, or driver, without coming into
contact with a vehicle. Informational interactions are when public safety
officials gather information from a vehicle or driver either by observing it,
searching around it, or requesting it.
The most common responses included the following interaction
types, themes, and associated number of responses, indicated in the
Direct Interaction: Represented the need to
know “How to…”
- Disable the vehicle when securing an incident
scene (38), investigate an abandoned vehicle (4), or perform stabilization or
Indirect Interactions: Represented the need to know “How to…”
- Know that the ADS-equipped vehicle has sensed or
detected the presence of emergency vehicles during an incident response (16) or
when conducting a traffic stop (19)
- Signal or communicate to the vehicle when
conducting traffic direction and control (39) or securing an incident scene (5)
Informational Interactions: Represented additional “Need to know how…”
- The vehicle will react or behave in advance of
responding to an incident (30), conducting traffic direction and control (17),
or investigating an abandoned vehicle (4)
- To identify or determine a vehicle is an
ADS-equipped vehicle in DO when responding to an incident (22), conducting
traffic direction and control (14), conducting a traffic stop (11), securing an
incident scene (7), or investigating an abandoned vehicle (6)
- To determine who is responsible for the vehicle
when securing an incident scene (23) or conducting a traffic stop (20)
- To obtain various data from the vehicle prior to
its involvement in an incident being secured (23) or the initiation of a
traffic stop (2)
The participant feedback indicates several potential
opportunities for improved interactions between public officials and future
ADS-equipped vehicles in DO. Consistent actions by vehicles in all the
scenarios was said to largely benefit the safety and efficiency of public
safety officials. Additional technologies that were speculated to be associated
with these vehicles, such as mass communication capabilities to warn other
vehicles and detailed data of the vehicle’s behavior prior to an incident or
traffic stop, were all mentioned as strong positives for resources, time, and
safety. The responses garnered from the interviews conducted with public safety
officials were stated inquisitively as needs but are opportunities for additional
research efforts to investigate further.
The objectives of this research effort were to:
- Determine common public safety scenarios through
a literature review and subject matter expert opinions
- Use an HTA to analyze and breakdown the tasks of
each scenario step-by-step
- Verify that the safety scenarios are complete by
requesting further subject matter expert opinion via focus groups and
- Inquire how introduction of ADS-equipped
vehicles in DO may change current procedures conducted in each scenario
- Determine opportunities where the interactions
of public safety officials could be improved with the introduction of
ADS-equipped vehicles in DO
The steps taken to accomplish these objectives will be the
focus of this document:
- Chapter 2 describes the research methods
associated with the project tasks, including the literature review, HTA, and DO
- Chapter 3 provides additional details on the DO
needs assessment data analysis efforts.
- Chapter 4 presents the literature review and HTA.
- Chapter 5 discusses of the DO needs assessment
findings for each operational scenario.
- Chapter 6 summarizes to key findings from the DO
participant feedback assessment key findings.
- Chapter 7 draws attention to potential
opportunities for improved operational procedures and interactions moving
For more information, contact:
Will be available for interviews.
Must contact Anne Deekens to schedule.