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Will Connected and Autonomous Vehicles change the landscape of signage standardization?

Will Connected and Autonomous Vehicles change the landscape of signage standardization?

By ATSSA Director of New Programs Brian Watson

On June 19, 2019 at the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Task Force Meeting, updates on signage and pavement marking uniformity were the main topics of discussion. With CAVs entering U.S. roadways every day, the need for uniformity is growing exponentially. Transformational technologies on CAVs raise new questions for groups like the NCUTCD, such as signage that appears on the exterior of CAVs. For instance, many CAV manufacturers have their own signage displays on the exterior of the vehicle that alert human drivers and pedestrians of the CAV’s intentions on the roadway.

The signs aren’t just telling others what the vehicle is doing, it is telling others how to behave, such as pedestrians at a crosswalk. The exterior vehicle signage acts as a traffic control device in these instances. On-vehicle signage notifies the individuals entering the crosswalk that crossing the street is safe. According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), “The MUTCD is incorporated in regulations, approved by the FHWA, and recognized as the national standard for traffic control devices used on all streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel.”

The question the NCUTCD is trying to answer is whether these signs should be standardized under the MUTCD. Many auto manufacturers are placing patents on their own exterior vehicle signs which may cause confusion for human drivers and other vulnerable road users due to lack of consistency between the various sign messages among auto manufacturers. To see a video example of signage on CAVs, view a video from drive.ai. This, and topics such as these are the hot discussion points at this year’s meeting; so much so that an additional an task force has been created that will look into signage and CAVs. The group held their first meeting on June 18. For more information on the NCUTCD or infrastructure standards, visit ncutcd.org.

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