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serving the missouri meramec area.

Transportation Advisory Committee learns about autonomous vehicles

For immediate release

For more information, contact
Anne Freand


ST. JAMES­—Autonomous vehicles are already a part of our driving experience and will play a role in the future of transportation in Missouri, Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) learned at its meeting April 12. In fact, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is including the autonomous vehicle discussion in its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), which is now available for public review. MoDOT Planning and Programming Coordinator Jerica Holtsclaw spoke to the TAC on the LRTP and explained how autonomous vehicles are going to play role in Missouri’s transportation in the future and what kinds of autonomous vehicles are on Missouri’s highways currently.

The LRTP established the same goals as the 2014 plan with the addition of one new goal – to improve reliability and reduce congestion on Missouri’s transportation system. As part of the LRTP, MoDOT has begun preparing for autonomous and connected vehicles.

There are five levels of autonomous vehicles. Level one includes vehicles with driver assistance systems such as cruise control. Level two is on the road today, includes vehicles with lane departure assistance, smart cruise control that can slow down when approaching other vehicles and more. In five to 10 years, conditional automation is expected where a vehicle can perform most tasks with the expectation that a passenger will respond to a request to intervene. Most manufacturers, according to Holtsclaw, are attempting to skip to level four – vehicles that can perform all driving tasks even if a passenger does not respond to a request to intervene. Finally, level five includes vehicles that can perform all driving tasks under all road and environment conditions that a human can.

With autonomous and connected vehicles, there are both pros and cons, according to Holtsclaw. Some of the pros include an increase in number of vehicles able to be on the road at one time; the technology can be used for public shuttles or shared vehicles; semi-trucks become more efficient because they can caravan by connecting to the first truck with a driver and the others follow, and safety becomes greater as the room for human error is taken out of the equation. At this point, there are some obvious problems, however – cyber security, privacy, and who is responsible when an autonomous vehicle fails.

Missouri’s answer to autonomous vehicles for now is to take its lead from federal legislation. MoDOT is looking at ways to improve infrastructure to accommodate for these vehicles, but are hesitant to invest too much into technology or legislation for autonomous vehicles, as it could be out of date as soon as it’s installed.

For those interested in looking into MoDOT’s LRTP can find the full plan at http://www.modot.org/LRTP/. The LRTP is out for public comment until May 3.

In other business, the TAC:

  • Reviewed the 2018-2019 Transportation Planning Work Plan, which was recommended by the TAC and approved by the full MRPC board later that evening; and
  • Heard an update from MoDOT Area Engineer Preston Kramer about area construction projects.

Persons needing more information on MRPC’s Transportation Advisory Committee may contact MRPC at (573) 265-2993. The group will meet again at 4 p.m. June 14 at MRPC, 4 Industrial Dr., St. James. Meetings are open to the public. John Casey of Washington County chairs the TAC.

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 23, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.