Influence of Autonomous and Partially Autonomous Vehicles on Minnesota Roads

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  06/15/2023


Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are not quite road-ready but most new vehicles are partially autonomous, using features like adaptive cruise control and cameras for detecting a lane by its markings. The Local Road Research Board and MnDOT want to understand how these vehicles will impact traffic, safety and road maintenance. What happens, for example, when snow is covering lane markings? New research answered this question and others, highlighting issues agencies can continue exploring. Researchers conducted a series of tests on a new vehicle retrofitted with sensors, cameras and software to perceive and interpret the surrounding environment. The car could identify the distance to a vehicle ahead, the relative speed of the preceding vehicle and lane markings. This information enabled autonomous steering and speed and braking control. The vehicle demonstrated mixed results when driving in different levels of traffic and varying levels of snow-covered highways and local roads. Automated driving produced decreased acceleration and deceleration, which would result in smoother traffic flow compared to manual driving. The car was not able to navigate through work zones or in snowy conditions unless the lane markings were clearly visible. Technology improvements and agencies’ investigations into how AVs will influence the operation and maintenance of Minnesota’s roads will continue.

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