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USDOT releases report on automated vehicles and adverse weather

The US Department of Transportation has published a report on how adverse weather and road conditions affect automated vehicles (AVs). The report, Automated Vehicles and Adverse Weather: Final Report, explores AV needs, opportunities, and potential shortcomings during adverse weather conditions.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics show that more than 1 in 5 annual motor vehicle crashes—many involving injuries and fatalities—are weather-related. Vehicles with automated features to assist the driver in a variety of driving tasks, including steering and braking, are increasingly available on the road. Although these vehicles are manufactured with sensors, perception systems, and software to allow them to drive in various environmental conditions, most of the currently available systems are not designed to operate in all adverse weather conditions.

Like other vehicles, AVs must perform in a variety of adverse weather conditions. The report summarizes the findings of a Federal Highway Administration project that conducted 1) a literature review; 2) two experiments to observe the performance of AVs and their sensor systems under controlled conditions; and 3) three listening sessions with stakeholders. The report also provides background information on AVs and outstanding research needs.

Key findings of the report include important guidance for the future of AVs and AV research. For example, the limitations of AVs are not fully understood. Some of the vehicles studied for the report were challenged when exposed to adverse weather, and the team observed a significant amount of performance inconsistency from vehicle to vehicle. Some tested vehicles used different approaches to automation and driver assistance.

The report found that advancements in data connectivity, infrastructure support, and rulemaking are needed to improve safety and achieve higher levels of automation. In addition, state and local agencies must be better equipped to provide advice on AV use in adverse conditions.

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