Tom Williams of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute spoke at the Smart Transport Symposium in Austin on the state highway planning implications of autonomous and connected transportation technology. These transformative technologies are anticipated to change how America travels and transports goods within a generation and will have significant ramifications on the state and national levels for budgeting and transportation planning.


Texas transportation planning looks at both personal and commercial travel and plans budgets for state infrastructure development. The research into autonomous transportation technology shows that the field is rapidly progressing and prototype testing is showing success. The next stage in autonomous transportation planning is travel modeling and forecasting.

The impact of autonomous vehicles on the economy will be significant. Infrastructure development is anticipated to be privately funded, or funded by joint government-private enterprises. The federal government is just beginning to gather experts to discuss national planning and regulatory implications.

The Texas House Committee on Transportation, chaired by Rep Joseph Pickett and Rep Armando Martinez, is the legislative body tasked with examining innovative transportation technologies, among many other responsibilities.

US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced this week that he will establish an Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation which will provide research, policy guidance, and regulatory affairs advice to federal agencies regarding the developing technology.

The National Conference on State Legislatures tracks the states that have already passed legislation related to autonomous transportation. At this time, 34 states have passed legislation related to autonomous transportation, and more have developed committees to study the issue. Four states plus the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing driverless cars to be developed and tested in the state.

According to attorney Jake Posey, managing shareholder of The Posey Law Firm, PC,  TTI has published a detailed report on the current state of the research in automated driving and connected vehicles that should provide guidance for legislators looking at these issues. The report, authored by Christopher Poe, Assistant Agency Director of the Texas Transportation Institute, describes the current state of research and testing into automated driving, infrastructure challenges, the current state of federal legislation and planning, and new paradigms.

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