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FHWA to update its national traffic control manual to prepare for new CAV technologies

Overshadowed by the USDOT’s recent release of new federal guidance for automated vehicles was the announcement by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that it is updating its ‘Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways’ (MUTCD) to take account of the new technology.

The FHWA is revamping the MUTCD in preparation for the future of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) and to provide states and local communities with more opportunities to make use of the new innovations. The MUTCD is the national standard for traffic signs, signals and pavement markings.

The last edition was published in 2009 and was revised in 2012. Included in the USDOT’s ‘Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0’ guidance documents, the upcoming new edition of the MUTCD will propose to update the technical provisions to reflect advances in technologies and operational practices, incorporate recent trends and innovations, and set the stage for automated driving systems as those continue to take shape.

The publication of a new edition will propose to streamline processes and reduce burdens on state and local agencies by adopting many of the successful devices that have resulted from some of the 150 official experiments that FHWA has approved, including congestion-reduction strategies such as variable speed limits, dynamic lane control and shoulder use, and pedestrian safety enhancements such as the rectangular rapid-flashing beacon and crosswalk marking patterns.

Overall, the new edition will propose to allow more flexibility and innovation to improve travel for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. As part of the process of updating the Manual, the FHWA will seek input from the public nationwide, including state and local traffic engineers, traffic control device technicians and other stakeholders. The proposed changes are expected to be released for public review and comment in spring 2019.

The FHWA has administered the MUTCD since 1971 and has published six editions. The Manual was first published in 1935 to establish uniform and easily recognizable traffic control features on the USA’s highways as car travel increased. The FHWA says that while technologies and travel trends have evolved since 1935, the need for uniformity, and for the safe and efficient movement of road users, still remains today.

“The new manual will be forward-looking in accommodating technologies necessary to support highway connectivity, automation and innovations that improve safety and efficiency,” noted Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L Hendrickson.

“The revised edition will lay the groundwork for supporting the infrastructure of the future. The FHWA’s goal is to ensure that the MUTCD improves the public’s travel experience, whether driving on the interstate or in a large city, small town or rural America. We are also being responsive to stakeholders who requested an update to the MUTCD.”

October 12, 2018

Written by Adam Frost

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