The governance structure of the AVPG is designed to enable smooth management and coordination, as well as to minimize common problems imposed by bureaucratic structures. The Joint Program Management Board consists of the coordinators of the three programs (technology, infrastructure, and governance). It is responsible for overall management, communication with the Executive Committee and other relevant stakeholders, and steering and monitoring research progress. The Joint Program Steering Committee, comprised of one representative from each of the current 11 full participants, decides on the admission of new partners, the integration of new research topics, and the strategic positioning of the research framework.
Close communication with city, county, state and federal authorities is a special focus, as are dialogues with the scientific community and with industry. The goal is to maximize synergy and to keep research strategy aligned with the real-life needs of communities and the economy. A Government Advisory Board has been established to ensure mutual knowledge transfer between research and government authorities. Its major aim is to initiate the transfer of new scientific findings, methods or tools into communities – and in return, provide feedback on their usability in practice.
The strategic management process includes regular thematic meetings and smaller events throughout the year, as well as two large annual workshops.
Joint Program Management Board
The experts on the proving grounds project will be grouped by three areas of expertise: technology, infrastructure, and governance (see diagram, above). Each of these three groups will have a chairperson as well as representatives involved in the group’s work.
Advising the three groups will be a Government advisory board, comprising state and federal officials representing all levels of government, and the Steering Committee (see diagram, above).
Each working group (see below) will focus on a specific area of importance to testing, developing, supporting and/or regulating AVs, and the work packages that comprise them will each have a “lead”, a member of each of the three program areas (technology, infrastructure and governance) that will be a point of accountability and information flow. The program chairs will ensure that the focus of the working groups stays consistent with the overall roadmap – the strategic plan for the proving grounds. Every working group will have a coordinator whose role is to set another “roadmap” for the individual work package and ensure each package is working in support of that roadmap. The coordinator will be a person who is well-versed in the topic of their workgroup and will be available to each lead person to help solve problems and answer any questions that arise from the work.
Following are brief summaries of the working groups.
Autonomous vehicles above level 3 will need detailed, real-time “basemaps”, or highly detailed and precise data that describe to the vehicle how much road it has to work with (ie. lane spacing), and where important infrastructure is (like traffic lights) and the capability to communicate with that infrastructure. Basemaps will need to be updated in real-time by the sensors of each vehicle travelling the roads, uploaded to and processed by nearby roadway infrastructure, and send back any critical updates (such as an obstruction in the road) to the vehicle. We hope the Wisconsin proving grounds will be the the site of a basemap breakthrough: a full picture of exactly how this process will work. It’s a process that’s critical to the wide scale deployment of AVs, yet there is no consensus on the best way to make it happen. We hope to change that.
As one of the first industries expected to be highly impacted by the switch to smart vehicles, our aim is to determine best practices for automated commercial trucking vehicles. Wisconsin has a large number of trucking companies and employees in the state and we don’t want them to be left behind in the rush to automation. That industry and the vehicles themselves face unique challenges, but in answering questions specific to commercial trucking, we plan to advance applications that will speed the development of AVs as a whole.
One of the major questions facing AVs today is, “what if a maniac hacks the cars and causes a massive fatal accident?” Another big question is “who will own the data that these cars generate – the driver, the manufacturer, the state?” We believe we can solve these problems and provide answers that will keep passengers safe while keeping their identity secure. One potential avenue of interest at the moment is blockchain technology, which is essentially impossible to hack and provides a means to report data anonymously. Whatever the answer ends up being, the work of our data security group will help passengers feel both their bodies and their personal information is secure every time they ride in an autonomous vehicle.
It’s not clear yet exactly what the certification process will look like for getting a new autonomous vehicle to market, but our certification group will flesh out the parameters of that process. Some of this hinges on what happens at the federal level: will NHTSA’s 15 point guidelines be codified into federal law, or will the states be left to decide? Whatever the outcome, our certification group will develop a streamlined process to test and certify that a given make and model is safe for use on public roads.
When we talk about the cars of tomorrow, we sometimes forget that many of them are around today. Given the economy of used car sales and the potential life of vehicles, we are sure that many older models will be retrofitted to become autonomous. Our retrofitting group will determine the most effective ways to get an older car up to speed and will explore regulatory issues and requirements for older cars fitted with new technology.
This group will study the interactions between humans and AV tech and work to optimize interfaces and remove obstacles from easy and efficient operation of an autonomous vehicle. It will look at vehicles at different levels of automation and discern the best way, as one example, for a vehicle to properly alert a passenger to prepare to take control of the vehicle.
This group will seek to eliminate roadblocks between public perception and the future of mobility. It will ensure vehicles contain functionality that allow passengers to know that they’re safe.
This group will focus on the testing and best practices for mass transit buses, as well as rideshare vans and other public or semi-public means of transportation in the future. As with the commercial trucking group, these are vehicles that require a special set of standards and technologies. At the proving grounds, we hope to be the first to make the breakthroughs that will ultimately result in a much wider range of mobility for everyone, including the disabled and disadvantaged.