The Future of Transportation is Here in Racine, WI

The City of Racine, as part of Smart Racine efforts, is pioneering the introduction and integration of an automated vehicle (AV) shuttle into public transportation systems in Wisconsin.

The Racine AV shuttle, known as the “Badger”, represents the first municipal AV deployment in Wisconsin and heralds the future of transportation: automated, connected, electrified and shared. As such, Racine AV provides a unique opportunity for the citizens and businesses of Racine and throughout Wisconsin to personally experience AV transportation, explore the positive impact of its implementation, and envision the many benefits that follow along.

Access to jobs, grocery stores, healthcare, education, and cultural, recreational, and other opportunities varies among communities in urban regions leaving certain communities underserved. While the underlying causes of inequitable community growth are complex and multi-faceted, limited transit options compound the issue and contribute to a vicious cycle of social inequity, having implications for health, wealth, education, and safety of these communities. The Racine AV shuttle service is being designed to deploy and demonstrate how emerging automated transportation solutions can be harnessed effectively and symbiotically within existing public transportation systems to address the glaring disparities in our society.

The initial deployment of the shuttle is anticipated to be a fixed-route service in downtown Racine. A trained Racine Transit operator will be in control of the vehicle at all times including when operating in AV mode. After building community trust, the AV shuttle could be potentially used for an on-demand service in the off-peak hours.

The Racine AV shuttle deployment will also enable cutting edge research and training related to autonomous, connected, and electric vehicle technologies. The City’s partnership with the Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison draws from Wisconsin’s highly respected technical college and university systems to develop a first rate living laboratory for advanced transportation research, education, and training. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory (TOPS Lab) will work alongside professionals in Racine’s public, private, and nonprofit sectors to develop and refine the technical elements of the AV shuttle deployment. The TOPS Lab researchers will monitor and evaluate the safety and operation of the AV shuttle. The Gateway Technical College will house the shuttle and incorporate it into education and training opportunities to prepare the workforce for future employment opportunities.

The AV shuttle is powered by TONY® (short for “TO Navigate You”) developed by Perrone Robotics Inc. Perrone Robotics is a leading provider of reliable fully autonomous vehicle technology and turn-key vehicle solutions for the mobility of people and things. Their TONY AV technology embeds inside of any vehicle type for any job application, to provide a complete “artificial driver” solution that brings full autonomy in a safety certifiable framework.

IEEE Madison AVs

What will our life be like with autonomous vehicles? Will it be the anticipated utopia or will there are new concerns that have to be considered? How will people regard this disrupting technology as it evolves? Will it be implemented with AI Neural Networks, or traditional Coding practices?

Date: Thursday, October 19th
When: 2:30 Vehicles, 3:30 Pizza, 4:00 Presentation
Where: 1800 Engineering Hall
Who: Bob Neff, Technologist

Several high-end automated vehicles will be on display outside of Engineering Hall. Come see these vehicles with advanced autonomous technology starting at 2:30 PM on Thursday!

Click here for the flyer (pdf)

ITS World Congress

From the World Congress organizers:

Thousands of people from the transport, automotive, telecommunications, and technology sectors will engage in robust discussions and spirited debates as to how this rapidly changing and ever-expanding industry is addressing the very real challenges facing our mobile, connected societies today and in the future.

The Smart Cities Pavilion highlights Smart Cities from around the world, continuing the discussion and debate around how policy can advance the future of integrated mobility, how transportation is moving to the center of the Internet of Things and how technological solutions and the IoT are changing cities.

Live demonstrations of ITS technologies are featured, and the City of Montréal is creating a virtual testbed on the streets adjacent to the Palais des congrès. This test bed will include an arterial loop circling the Palais and a section of a nearby limited access highway that will be equipped with DSRC roadside units integrated with local signal controllers to support demonstrations of Connected Vehicle technologies.

Forum on the Impact of Vehicle Technologies and Automation on Users

This two-day Forum is designed to bring together representatives and experts from the research community, government, and industry to discuss and identify research needs and direction on the impact of vehicle technologies and automation for drivers and other transportation users.

Our own Professor John Lee is a panelist for the session about user experience on Tuesday afternoon. We hope to see you there.

Questioning Popular Autonomous Vehicle Assumptions

Those of us with the Wisconsin AV Proving Grounds regularly find ourselves questioning claims and allaying fears in the same breath. The following article captures this well and is re-posted with permission from Robert Poole, Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation. (Original Post)

Many Autonomous Vehicle Assumptions Need to be Questioned

As a transportation professional, I’m a bit overwhelmed by proliferating articles and technical papers dealing with autonomous vehicles. And I’m increasingly distressed by the growing disparity between what appears in the popular media and what’s in the technical literature, because the former is what seems to motivate legislators and planners. So here are five challenges to the mass-media version of our AV future.

AVs will save millions of lives. Certainly, we all hope this will prove to be the case. But it’s not as simple as many people seem to think. As Washington Post reporters Michael Laris and Ashley Halsey III explained in a long feature article (Oct. 18, 2016), how will we know how much safer AVs are? Only about half of all crashes are reported to police (as opposed to insurance companies), and some people avoid doing the latter to avoid a possible premium increase. The former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, Mark Rosekind, said that widespread use of AVs should not proceed until they were demonstrated be “much safer” than conventional vehicles, but without comprehensive data on actual accident rates, it’s difficult to make such a comparison. Also, researcher Tom Dingus of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute points out that alert, attentive, sober drivers are very low risk. It’s drunk drivers plus very young and very old drivers that drive up the averages. In addition, the most promising form of vehicle automation relies on machine learning—but even the experts in that field have no idea what or how the machine actually learns. Matthieu Roy of the National Center for Scientific Research in France says that, “You would never put [a machine learning] algorithm into an airplane because you cannot prove [to regulators] the system is correct.”

AVs Will All Be Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). A January 3, 2017, Wall Street Journal news article called “Wiring Streets for Driverless Cars” presented this conventional wisdom, which is being promoted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration with its Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) efforts. Reporter Paul Page touted new digital signs on a freeway near Washington, DC “as a first step toward what highway planners say is a future in which self-driving cars will travel on technology-aided roads lined with fiber optics, cameras, and connected signaling devices.” But unlike lower-brow media, Page went on to note that many billions of dollars would be needed to wire more than 4 million miles of paved roads and 250,000 intersections. If AVs depend on that kind of infrastructure investment, don’t bet on an AV future. Fortunately, most AV researchers don’t think anything like that is necessary. AVs, especially those with full (Level 5) autonomy, will need to be self-sufficient even in alleys, on gravel roads, and on countryside dirt roads.

Full, Level 5 Autonomy Will Be Here within a Decade. In addition to academic researchers such as UC Berkeley’s Steven Shladover who projects Level 5 (all types of roadway, all weather conditions, no driver needed ever) as a 2075 phenomenon, a number of technology-literate commentators have begun throwing out caution flags. For example, telematics blogger Michael L. Sena headlined a recent issue of his The Dispatcher: “SAE Level 5 Driverless Cars Are Not Just Around the Corner.” He took issue with recent reports claiming that Transport as a Service (requiring Level 5) will be ubiquitous by 2030 nationwide. He also cited a thoughtful analysis by The Economist, headlined “Forget hype about autonomous vehicles being around the corner—real driverless cars will take a good deal longer to arrive.” Wired’s Aarian Marshall had a piece in February explaining “Why Self-Driving Cars *Can’t Even* with Construction Zones,” discussing very real problems with machine learning. He also noted an announcement by Nissan that its current plans don’t include Level 5; instead, they assume a human occupant who can take over control when the AI cannot cope, and the human can contact a Nissan call center for help.

Fleets Are the Future, Not Owned AVs. A recent “analysis” by Governing magazine, summarized in the August issue, sounds the alarm that cities’ budgets are seriously at risk from the impacts of the transition to AVs. For the largest 25 cities, the magazine’s team collected data on parking revenues, fines and citations, traffic camera fines, gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees, etc. Many of these cities each year generate several hundred dollars per capita from these vehicular revenues, much of which could disappear in the AV future, warns the article. Except—much of the impact stems from the assumption that shared fleets of robo-taxis replace individually owned cars, thereby eliminating most urban parking requirements (and hence parking revenue). Another built-in assumption is that most or all AVs will be electric, which is hardly a given. Robotaxis and individually owned AVs that can go elsewhere after dropping the owner off require Level 5 automation, which is hardly a near-term phenomenon. So city officials should not begin losing sleep over plummeting parking revenues.

AVs Will Reduce Congestion. As I’ve pointed out in previous issues, the majority view among AV researchers is that the transition to AVs will increase vehicle miles of travel (VMT), for a variety of reasons including bringing personal vehicle autonomy to millions who are unable to drive today, as well as reducing the time cost of commuting. But a related idea remains—that due to reduced distance between AVs on roadways, existing roads will be able to handle greater volume with less congestion. But even popular media are starting to consult experts who disagree. Business Insider recently interviewed Lew Fulton, co-director of UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies. He expressed particular concern about zero-occupant (Level 5) vehicles being a new source of increased congestion. Such vehicles, programmed to run errands, deliver packages, etc. will lead to far more cars on the road. Fulton calls them “zombie cars.”

Before leaving these points, I want to recommend a more thoughtful article. Despite its misleading title, “The Road Ahead for Connected Vehicles” (when the article actually discusses AVs, not CAVs), is a sober discussion by industry experts—established auto industry people, high-tech AV pioneers, and consultants. It’s a product of Wharton’s Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation, which has absorbed the former MIT International Motor Vehicle Program. If you have time to read just one article to get a more balanced view of this challenging area, this one is hard to beat. (

Wisconsin Executive Order on AV Development

Governor Walker issued an Executive Order today “Relating to the Creation of the Governor’s Steering Committee on Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Testing and Deployment.” Click here to read it (pdf).

This is an important recognition by the State of Wisconsin of the R&D work UW-Madison does on AVs, CVs, and related mobility advances, while acknowledging the incredible transformation upon us and the myriad benefits for Wisconsin.

“the removal of barriers to the testing and deployment of automated and connected vehicle technology in Wisconsin may produce significant social, economic, environmental, and innovative benefits including enhancing mobility, creating jobs, and improving transportation efficiency”

Wisconsin is in a legal grey area for certain types of advanced AVs operating on public roads, and we are fortunate that our legislators and governor support the AV Proving Ground’s work on the “path to public road evaluation.” Among the missions of this new committee is to identify statutes, code, laws, or rules “that impede the testing and deployment” on roads.

These are complex issues that affect all of us and touch many disciplines. The AV Proving Grounds team looks forward to working with this committee over the next 13 months. Learn more about our AV Proving Grounds here, or send us a note at

Bi-partisan support in the Senate for AV/CV funding. Thank you to our Senator Tammy Baldwin!

Peters, Tillis Lead Colleagues in Calling for Funding to Advance Self-Driving Vehicles

USDOT Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds Will Serve as Hubs for Developing Advanced Automotive Technologies

April 7, 2017, Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today led a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues in a letter calling for increased funding to support the advancement of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies. The letter specifically calls for Congress to appropriate funding for the safe development and testing of CAV technologies at U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT) federally-designated proving grounds. The letter was sent to Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI).

“The auto industry is in the midst of a seismic technological shift that will revolutionize the transportation of people and goods in our lifetime. Connected and self-driving cars can reduce dramatically the more than 35,000 lives lost on our roads and highways every year and fundamentally transform the way we get around,” wrote the Senators.

“Connected and automated vehicles are going to be developed abroad if we do not take the lead in making sure these technologies are advanced right here in the United States,” the Senators continued. “Identifying and selecting these initial proving grounds was a crucial first step, but USDOT must now be given the resources to work quickly to ensure that testing and evaluation at these facilities can begin as soon as possible.”

Connected and automated vehicle technologies have the potential to reduce traffic accidents, save thousands of lives lost on American roads each year, and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of groundbreaking automotive innovation. Last year, at Senator Peters’ urging, USDOT opened a competition to designate national testing facilities for advanced automotive technologies. In January, USDOT named ten facilities across the country as federally-designated proving grounds for the development of automated vehicles. Prior to these designations, there was no national testing facility in the United States for CAV technologies.

The designees include:

  • American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, MI
  • City of Pittsburgh and the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
  • Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership
  • U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, MD
  • Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) & GoMentum Station
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Iowa City Area Development Group
  • Wisconsin AV Proving Grounds / University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

A copy of the letter is available here.

Source: United States Senator for Michigan Gary Peters