When the first Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit convened last September in State College, the discussions among the 275 attendees generated such enthusiasm and urgency that the conveners — PennDOT and the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) — decided not to wait a year for the second.
The second PA AV Summit met April 9-10, 2018, in Pittsburgh — the birthplace of vehicle automation technology due to the pioneering research by Carnegie Mellon University and its off-shoots. More than 400 attendees registered for this event to learn about AV safety, infrastructure planning, and workforce and economic development.
Pennsylvania is one of the handful of leadership states in automated vehicle development, and one area where the Keystone State is uniformly recognized for leadership is citizen and public engagement. The AV summits are structured with the goal of fostering communication among industry representatives, policymakers, advocates of various stripes, local officials, service providers, and opinion leaders.
The summit also made news when, on the first day, PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards announced a strong and balanced interim testing safety package, including an update to the 2016 testing safety policy recommendations of the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Task Force. PennDOT will be calling on testing entities in Pennsylvania to pledge compliance to those policy recommendations for safe AV testing, as we continue to ask the General Assembly to enact legislation to give PennDOT legal authority to oversee testing safety.
And on the second day, PennDOT joined with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Penn State to announce plans for a state-of-the-art advanced technology training and testing facility (PennSTART).
Of course, the essence of the summit is the interaction between subject-matter experts and the decision-makers, opinion leaders, and engaged citizens of the state who participated. Out of these discussions, many important points emerged, of which a few notable ones include:
- There is concern regarding potential inequities in access to technology between rural and urban/suburban sections of the state that must not be neglected.
- Local officials (county and municipal) need to be more engaged and involved in thinking about how vehicle automation will affect their communities, particularly regarding land-use, tax revenue, and law enforcement.
- Public transit represents one of the most promising areas for developing vehicle automation solutions that bring widespread public benefit, but transit agencies will need to come to grips with the workforce and labor-relations issues that may arise.
- Workforce impacts are a concern, but as a leading voice of organized labor said during one summit panel, vehicle automation will ultimately be a force that generates new, more, and better job opportunities.
- The terms of the public discussion need to focus less on what safe, deployment-ready AVs will look like in the future, and more on how to ensure testing safety now so the technology can continue to improve and advance toward deployment readiness.
- There is an understandable fascination with automated vehicles, but as much attention needs to be put toward connected vehicle infrastructure and the tremendous safety and mobility benefits these technologies can bring.
PennDOT and DCED will keep listening closely to the people of Pennsylvania and be steered by their guidance as we advance this profound transformation in transportation technology that is unfolding.
For more on automated vehicles in Pennsylvania, visit the AV page on PennDOT's website. For more on the PA AV Summit, visit www.paavsummit.org. Find photos and videos from the summit in PennDOT’s media center.