Center for Public Policy, Partnerships, and Outreach

The Center for Public Policy, Partnerships, and Outreach (C3PO) has several areas of focus. The Center assists with the needed models of rules and regulations for advanced vehicles (e.g., driver assistance systems, connected and/or automated vehicles), provides research to ensure state and federal policies are based on relevant data, develops partnerships to assist in the development of new systems, and enhances VTTI’s research areas and sponsorship diversity. The Center works with stakeholders whose interests are affected by governmental decisions on federal, state, local, or international levels in the development and implementation of automated vehicle systems. The nature of this work is intended to inform policymakers as well as original equipment manufacturers and automotive suppliers on a wide range of issues related to transformational transportation technologies, including those associated with connected and automated vehicle systems, shared mobility networks, and the development of Smart City solutions, including the resiliency of these systems and networks. Outreach efforts – "VTTI Research in Motion" – are focused on performing applied research and ensuring the results are provided in a timely fashion to those who can benefit.

Myra Blanco
Center Director

Assessment, Evaluation, and Approaches to Technical Translations of FMVSS and Test Procedures That May Impact Compliance of Innovative New Vehicle Designs Associated with Automated Driving Systems

Many Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) were created with the underlying assumption that vehicles include standard equipment such as steering wheels, brake pedals, and driver’s seats. However, innovative new vehicle designs are tailored for higher levels of automated driving systems which may not need physical steering wheels or brake pedals to operate, and there may be no designated “driver’s” seat. Under a new NHTSA contract, C3PO will lead a team comprised of experts from the automotive, legal, and research sectors to examine the current FMVSS — particularly the crashworthiness, crash avoidance, and low-speed standards — in developing technical translations and the related testing procedure approaches for emerging innovative and non-traditional vehicle designs. Read More

NCHRP 20-102(07) Implications of Automation for Motor Vehicle Codes

Existing motor vehicle codes have been developed based on implicit assumptions about drivers maintaining continuous involvement in the driving task and continuous responsibility for managing traffic safety hazards. Automated driving systems significantly reduce the role of the driver, which means that some of these codes will need to be reconsidered. The incorporation of driving behavior into in-vehicle software also generates pressure to harmonize the rules of the road across jurisdictions. Read More

NCHRP 20-102(07) Implications of Automation for Motor Vehicle Codes

Existing motor vehicle codes have been developed based on implicit assumptions about drivers maintaining continuous involvement in the driving task and continuous responsibility for managing traffic safety hazards. Automated driving systems significantly reduce the role of the driver, which means that some of these codes will need to be reconsidered. The incorporation of driving behavior into in-vehicle software also generates pressure to harmonize the rules of the road across jurisdictions. Implications of Connected and Automated Driving Systems [NCHRP Web-Only Document 253] helps states identify laws and regulations that may need to be changed for these vehicles. It includes six volumes:

  • Vol. 1: Legal Landscape explores federal, state, and international legal activities and practices regarding Connected and Automated Vehicles and Highly Automated Vehicles (C/AV/HAVs).
  • Vol. 2: State Legal and Regulatory Audit assists state agencies as they work to adapt their legal programs to reflect the realities of Connected and Automated Driving Systems (C/ADSs)—a term that in this report encompasses both vehicle connectivity and an Automated Driving System. The study highlights dozens of state code provisions that may need modification or clarification to reduce ambiguity and uncertainty as they apply to C/ADSs.
  • Vol. 3: Legal Modification Prioritization and Harmonization Analysis identifies how and when regulations and laws will need to be modified to facilitate the implementation of Connected and Automated Driving Systems (C/ADSs)-equipped vehicles. The report also identifies areas in today's state motor vehicle codes and regulations where harmonization may be important in supporting the deployment of C/ADS-equipped vehicles across the U.S.
  • Vol. 4: Autonomous Vehicle Action Plan develops awareness of the legislative landscape and the foundational laws and regulations that may need to be prioritized for modification for Connected and Automated Driving Systems (C/ADSs) technologies. The AVAP is intended to provide guidance and resources to state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) and transportation (DOTs) to assist with the legal changes that will result from the rollout of C/ADS equipped vehicles. PowerPoint Presentation slides accompany Vol. 4 and are available for download. This presentation is designed to provide a state policy task force with background information on the legal landscape for C/ADS-equipped vehicles.
  • Vol. 5: Developing the Autonomous Vehicle Action Plan provides technical background on developing Volumes 1 through 4 of NCHRP Web-Only Document 253. It includes further background on terminology and definitions used in the suite of reports; legal and regulatory reviews and needs assessment; state legal and regulatory audit; a prioritization and harmonization analysis; and a Connected and Automated Driving Systems (C/ADSs) analysis. Appendix A accompanies Vol. 5. The appendix serves as a standalone, sort-able spreadsheet delineating activities at the federal level and in each state, with links to legislation or policy materials.
  • Vol. 6: Implementation Plan provides a technical memorandum on how to put the research findings and products into practice; identifies possible institutions that might take leadership in applying the research findings/products; and identifies issues affecting potential implementation of the findings and products. The report also explores actions to address implementation issues and identifies ways to measure the impacts associated with implementing the research.

This project was sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.

Automated Vehicle Crash Rate Comparison Using Naturalistic Data

Self-driving cars are quickly moving from prototype to everyday reality. During this transition, the question that is first and foremost on the mind of the public and policy-makers is whether or not self-driving cars are more prone to crashes. Existing comparisons based on current data is problematic: collection methodologies in each states differ, with inconsistent requirements on what incidents are reported as crashes. Many crashes also go unreported. The research in this report "Automated Vehicle Crash Rate Comparison Using Naturalistic Data", which was performed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), and commissioned by Google, sheds light on these issues. It examines both national crash data and data from naturalistic driving studies that closely analyzes the behavior of 3,300 vehicles driving more than 34 million vehicle miles, to better estimate existing crash rates, and then compares the results to data from Google's Self-Driving Car program. Read More

Naturalistic Study of Level 2 Driving Automation Functions

The objective of this project was to investigate, through a naturalistic driving study (NDS), real-world driver interaction with commercially available driving automation systems. Ten vehicles equipped with both lateral and longitudinal automated features were instrumented and loaned to participants for a 4-week period. A total of 120 drivers were recruited over a 14-month data collection period. Participants drove 216,585 miles, with 70,384 miles driven with both lateral and longitudinal control features active. Drivers were observed engaging in non-driving tasks, but these were not related to feature use. Driver behavior was consistent with active driving/supervision of the automated features; drivers were receptive to Request to Intervene (RTI) alerts. No RTIs were associated with any Safety-Critical Events (SCEs; Crashes and Near-Crashes). In total, 5 minor crashes (no injury or visible damage) and 66 near-crashes were observed across the entire data set. No statistical relationship was observed between SCE rates and feature activation level. A sub-study specifically focused on longer drives was also conducted. Results observed in the substudy were similar to those observed in the broader NDS. Implications per the study research questions are presented herein. Comparisons to related research studies and limitations of the current research effort are also discussed. Read More

Consumer Active Safety Education

Active safety features, especially those associated with forward collision detection and avoidance technologies, have the potential to greatly reduce the number of serious accidents and fatal crashes in the coming years. However, for this potential to be met, consumers will need to be educated on the purpose, benefits, limitations, and proper use of these active safety technologies in order to prevent potential misuse and/or abuse. This study, which is sponsored by the National Center for Surface Transportation Safety and Research (NCSTSR), is evaluating the most effective strategies for providing information on Level 2 automation technologies that are currently or soon to be on the market, such as: emergency brake assist, low-speed obstacle detection with automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control with automatic braking. The research team is building upon existing knowledge, particularly that which relates to active safety technologies and driver training and online engagement pedagogies, to develop and recommend effective strategies for providing information related to these active safety features to consumers.

Gabrial Anderson

Research Associate

Abdalla Diraz

Research Assistant

Jordan Erisman

Graduate Research Assistant

Vikki Fitchett

Project Associate

Kaitlyn Fitzgerald

Lead Research Specialist

Karen Folino

Project Manager

David Kizyma

Senior Research Associate

Cindy Martin

Research Assistant

Tracy McElroy

Project Manager

Tammy Trimble

Senior Research Associate