The National Association of Counties (NACo) has created the Connected and Automated Vehicles Toolkit: A Primer for Counties to provide county leaders with an overview of and framework for engagement with the rapidly-growing connected and automated vehicles (CAV) sector.

Breakthroughs in connected and automated vehicles technologies are poised to revolutionize local and national transportation systems over the next decade, potentially bringing significant changes to the built environment and how residents live, work and move around their communities. As technology manufacturers, software developers, auto companies, universities and many other professionals continue to imagine and test these technologies and methods to optimize the nation’s transportation system, county officials, county engineers and transportation planners should have a working knowledge of them in order to make decisions about future local transportation needs and investments.

The toolkit provides an overview of how federal, state and local governments are responding to this revolution to integrate technology, communications, vehicles and infrastructure. Each section of the toolkit – technology, policy, deployment and next steps – provides a high level of overview of the state of play at the federal, state and local levels and then links out to further information and resources on each topic.

After exploring this primer, county leaders should be able to assess and tap into their county’s potential to engage in the continued development of the connected and automated vehicles field and determine how they can take advantage of coming opportunities.




This section provides an overview of the technology behind connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), from inception to today.

Connected vs. Automated Vehicles

Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) are two separate but related advancements in transportation technology. A vehicle can be connected but not automated, automated but not connected, neither or both. It is important to understand these distinctions and levels.

Connected Vehicles

Connected vehicles (CV) are those that can communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure and devices through wireless network technology, such as Wi-Fi and radio frequencies. Vehicles equipped with CV technology can alert drivers to nearby incidents, diversions or heavy traffic, thereby improving transportation safety and mobility. One of the most familiar CV technologies is dedicated short-range communications (DSRC). DSRC provides wireless two-way communications via the broadcast and reception of messages among vehicles and the roadside to transfer information over a specific radio frequency, the 5.9GHz spectrum in particular. They can be used for traffic signal control, traffic monitoring, automatic toll collection, traffic congestion detection and emergency vehicle signal preemption of traffic lights, to name a few.


Automated Vehicles

Automated vehicles, also known as driverless cars, are vehicles equipped with technology that enables them to operate with little to no human assistance. They can drive themselves by using cameras, radar, lidar (image sensing), GPS and computer vision to sense their surroundings. Once an environment has been scanned and obstacles and relevant signage detected, the vehicle’s equipment reacts as the situation dictates, controlling the steering mechanism, accelerator and brakes as required. Currently, there are no fully automated vehicles on the market; there are, however, vehicles that include connected and automated features which allow them to operate somewhat autonomously, but still require the driver to be actively involved. There are six levels of automation, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Learn more here.

Levels of automation



Major Milestones

The idea of a connected and automated vehicle (CAV) has been around for over 75 years. In line with the Digital Revolution and acceleration in technological advancements across all industries, the automotive industry has refined the idea of a connected and automated vehicle into a reality. Major milestone that have led to today’s modern era of connected and automated vehicles include the development of the:

Futurama exhibit

Futurama was an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Designed by Norman Bel Geddes and sponsored by General Motors, it put forth a future vision for transportation. This vision included high speed travel, the distance between vehicles controlled by radio waves and lane control with concrete dividers.


Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO) was established in 1991 via the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Its role is to "research ways that information and communications technologies can improve surface transportation safety and mobility and contribute to America’s economic growth." Currently, it has two strategic priorities: to realize connected vehicle implementation and advance automation. Its program categories include connected vehicles, automation, emerging capabilities, enterprise data, interoperability and accelerating deployment. Learn more about ITS JPO and its programs at https://www.its.dot.gov/.


DARPA Challenges

The first Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge was held in 2004. It was developed to “leverage American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that [could] be applied to military requirements.” The DARPA team designed a 142-mile course for self-driving vehicles to navigate. Fifteen teams – led by the academic and private sectors – competed in the first DARPA Challenge, and none crossed the finish line. The second DARPA Grand Challenge was held in 2005. This time the course was 132-miles long, 195 teams competed and the Stanford University built vehicle, Stanley, completed the race to win the $2 million challenge prize. DARPA chose a challenge structure to encourage and spur innovative technological research and development and commercial investment.


Google self-driving car project

The Google self-driving car project – now known as Waymo – started in 2009 with the goal of driving “fully autonomously over 10 uninterrupted 100-mile [highway] routes.” In 2012, the project began to test their vehicles -- a fleet of Toyota Prius and Lexus RX450h vehicles -- on city streets, with safety drivers accompanying passengers. In 2015, they tested the “Firefly” – a vehicle with custom sensors, computers, steering and braking technology, and without a steering wheel or pedals -- on city streets in Austin, Texas, without a safety driver.

In 2017, Waymo announced their first vehicle built on a mass-production platform and began a public self-driving vehicle trial in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2018, this trial became Waymo One, a commercial self-driving service, with safety drivers in all cars. Waymo’s mission is to make it “safe and easy for everyone to get around - without the need for anyone in the driver’s seat.”


Existing & Emerging Technologies

Anti-lock brakes system

Anti-lock brakes systems (ABS) – which automatically prevent vehicle wheels from locking up by activating the breaks when a vehicle loses traction or skids – existed in aircrafts and motorcycles for decades before they made their way to mainstream automobiles as a baseline feature in the late-1970s. ABS are typically computer-controlled sensors, placed on each wheel, that activate a car’s breaks in slippery situations. They have been standard on all vehicles since 1990s.


Global positioning systems

Global positioning systems (GPS) were first developed and used by the U.S. military for navigation experiments in the 1960s. The system was fine-tuned and stabilized over the next three decades before it was opened up for broader civilian use in the late 1980s. Today the system is comprised of at least 24 satellites that circle the Earth twice daily and measure a user’s exact position – which can then be used to calculate trips, trip distance, etc. GPS for automotive navigational use were introduced into the market in the early 1990s.


Adaptive Cruise Control

First developed in the early 1990s, adaptive cruise control when activated automatically adjusts a vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead. There are two main types of adaptive cruise control systems, laser and radar, which are affixed to the vehicle’s bumper.


Electronic Stability Control

Electronic stability control (ESC) – also known as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC) – was introduced to the mainstream market in 1995 and is now a mandatory feature in all automobiles. What ESC does is measure the actual motion of the car against the direction specified by the driver via the steering wheel. If there is a discrepancy, ESC automatically corrects the course of the car by activating the breaks on or cutting power to either one or three wheels to send the car in the direction that the driver intended.


Blind Spot monitoring systems

Blind spot monitoring systems (BSM) arrived on the market in the early 2000s. These systems use sonar, lidar or cameras to detect obstacles that are in a car’s blind spot. Notification of an obstacle in a car's path can range from alarms to vibrating steering wheels. In the past decade, blind spot monitoring has evolved, and cars can now automatically intervene to bring an automobile back into its own lane when an obstacle in the blind spot is detected.


Vehicle- to Everything (V2X) communications

V2X is the umbrella term for the communication systems contained within the connected vehicle network. These systems can sense the transportation environment around them and communicate that information to other components of the system. System components include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications. These systems help to collect and share real-time information on vehicle traffic to assist with intelligent traffic control, transportation planning and automated vehicle deployment. They are expected to reduce vehicle crashes and improve safety and mobility significantly. Learn more here.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications 

V2V communication enables vehicles to wirelessly exchange messages with the vehicles around them – up to and even beyond a range of 300 meters – to gain information on their speed, location and heading to create a 360-degree virtual picture that can help to determine and prevent potential crash threats. When a threat is detected, the vehicle can employ a combination of visual, tactile and audible alerts to warn the driver and help save lives. Learn more here.


Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications 

V2I communication enables the dynamic transfer of data between vehicles and elements of the roadway infrastructure, such as traffic signals. This technology captures traffic data and wirelessly communicates that information to nearby vehicles to create a picture of what the traffic looks like within a certain radius. V2I and ITS infrastructure can be deployed in conjunction with one another or side-by-side. Via V2I, vehicles can receive messages from the roadway infrastructure – such as red-light warnings and turning assistance – and roadway infrastructure can receive and respond to messages from vehicles – such as signal adjustments due to congestion and signal prioritization requests from emergency response, transit and freight vehicles. Learn more here.


Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communications 

V2P communication enables messages to be sent from pedestrians with smartphone devices to other components of the connected vehicle network, and vice versa. These communications could include warnings to vehicles of vulnerable populations in the crosswalk, such as pedestrians with low vision, children being pushed in strollers, people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, and/or passengers embarking and disembarking buses and trains. Learn more here.


Transportation network companies

Transportation network companies (TNCs) -- also known as ride-hailing and -sharing service providers, such as Uber and Lyft -- are disrupting the status quo by providing cheaper, more flexible transportation services, changing the way we get around and altering expectations in this age of technology and the on-demand economy. While these companies present challenges to traditional county revenue streams and regulatory structures, they also provide new opportunities to improve county planning, mobility and service models. Many transportation researchers purport that the technological and regulatory challenges that local governments are encountering as a result of the sharing economy are likely to be echoed when automated vehicles enter the market. Learn more about TNCs here.



Platooning works by coupling vehicles together via technologies -- including sensors, GPS, adaptive cruise control, V2V communication and software and hardware -- that process information received and then relaying messages to the driver. Platooning can provide fuel benefits and improve traffic by increasing efficiency and roadway capacity. It is currently being tested in freight trucks. Learn more about platooning here, and ITS JPO platooning deployment projects here and here.



With the wealth and vulnerability of users' personal information -- from travel patterns to credit card information -- that exists via the sharing economy and soon-to-be the CAV market, it is vital that cybersecurity concerns are addressed at the outset to ensure data are protected. According to U.S. DOT's Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation (AV 3.0), counties and other government entities should begin to make appropriate investments in cyber infrastructure and create security programs and plans—and exercise them—to assess, manage and respond to cybersecurity risks. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has resources to help in these efforts that can be accessed here.  


Find a more comprehensive list of emerging connected vehicle technologies and applications here.


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With the fast pace of technological advancements in the connected and automated vehicle industry, it can be hard for government policy and procurement systems to keep pace. This section provides an overview of current CAV-related policy at the federal, state and local levels. According to Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation, "the Federal government is responsible for regulating the safety performance of vehicles and vehicle equipment, as well as their commercial operation in interstate commerce, while States and local governments play the lead role in licensing drivers, establishing rules of the road, and formulating policy in tort liability and insurance." These policies should be developed in such a way that ensures the best interest of society but does not impede innovation.


As of Spring 2019, the federal government via the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released four main federal policy documents on automated vehicles. These documents were purposefully issued as guidance, not rulemaking, as they are intended to be updated regularly as the technology evolves. Each document builds on the last. Learn more here.

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy Statement

This first policy guidance document, released by NHTSA in September 2016, was created to help the U.S. DOT ensure that automated vehicle technologies – which are complex and evolving at rapid pace – would not only be safely introduced to roadways but also offer maximum safety benefits today and in the future. The document was intended to provide an initial regulatory framework and best practices for manufacturers and other entities in the safe design, development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles. Guidance was given around:

Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles
This section listed best practices for the safe pre-deployment design and testing of AVs prior to eventual commercial sale or operation on public roads. It sets expectations of the industry and includes a request that manufacturers submit a safety assessment letter at least four months before active public road testing begins on new automated features.
Model State Policy
This section delineated the federal and state roles in regulating the certification and regulation of AVs.  
NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools
This section reiterated the agency’s own role in regulating vehicle safety.
New Tools and Authorities

This section outlined new ways for NHTSA to use its regulatory tools and authorities to encourage safe AV testing and deployment.

Read the full document here.


ADS 2.0

Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety (ADS 2.0), this document, released in September 2017, incorporated stakeholder feedback and built on the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy Statement. The guidance further supported the safe deployment of advanced driver assistance technology and provided:

  • Voluntary guidance for industry, state and local governments and safety and mobility advocates to encourage best practices for the testing and safe deployment of Automated Driving Systems (ADSs), or SAE Automation Levels 3 through 5. The guidance revolved around 12 priority safety goals and approaches that could be used to achieve those safety goals for consideration. It also emphasized education of the public.

  • Technical assistance to states on best practices on ADSs for legislatures. This section clarified and delineated Federal and State roles in the regulation of ADSs, and provided guidance on safety for consideration by State legislatures and highway safety officials.

Read ADS 2.0 here.


AV 3.0

AV 3.0, released in October 2018, built on—but did not replace—ADS 2.0. This additional guidance:

  • Introduced a comprehensive, multimodal approach toward safely integrating automation across passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, on-road transit and the roadways on which they operate.

  • Clarified policy and roles of and responded to feedback from stakeholders, including manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and operators, commercial motor carriers, the bus transit industry and State and local governments.

    • Role of the Federal government. To regulate the safety performance of vehicles and vehicle equipment, as well as their commercial operation in interstate commerce,

    • Role of States and local governments. To play the lead role in licensing drivers, establishing rules of the road, and formulating policy in tort liability and insurance.

    • Role of private industry. To be a primary source of transportation research investment and commercial technology development. Governments at all levels should not unnecessarily impede such innovation.

  • Identified opportunities for partnership and collaboration among the private sector, State and local agencies and U.S. DOT.

Read AV 3.0 here.


Comprehensive Management Plan for Automated Vehicle Initiatives

The 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act directed the U.S. DOT to conduct research on the development of automated vehicles. This document, released in July 2018, came out of that directive. It provides an overview of U.S. DOT’s approach regarding all automation initiatives, including the:

  • Development of automation goals and objectives;
  • Acknowledgement of existing U.S. DOT research, budget and spending plans and programs that relate to automation; and
  • Coordination of automation research and activities within and beyond U.S. DOT. Other federal agencies tangentially involved in automated vehicles include, but are not limited to, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Throughout this document, U.S. DOT stresses the importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders.

Read the full document here.




Since 2011, states have taken action to address major CAV issues by passing legislation and issuing executive orders to define the requirements, regulations and investment structures under which these vehicles must operate. Per U.S. DOT, the State role in CAV policy is to license drivers and register motor vehicles; enact and enforce traffic laws; conduct safety inspections; and regulate motor vehicle insurance and liability. U.S. DOT's guidance further includes model state policy which focuses on best practices for state legislation, state highway safety officials, infrastructure owners and operators, state commercial vehicle enforcement agencies, and public sector transit industry and stakeholders. 

Model State policy

U.S. DOT encourage states and state-related entities to:
  • Proactively evaluate current laws and regulations so as not to unintentionally create barriers to ADS operation (e.g., requirements that a driver have at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times, requirements for State inspections, or even particular licensing requirements)
  • Work with other states and localities to remove barriers—such as unnecessary and incompatible regulations—to automated vehicle technologies and to support interoperability
  • Review others’ draft ADS policies and legislation and work toward consistency in order to promote innovation and the swift, widespread, safe integration of ADS
  • Provide a “technology-neutral” environment
  • Provide licensing and registration procedures
  • Provide reporting and communications methods for Public Safety Officials
  • Review traffic laws and regulations that may serve as barriers to operation of ADSs
  • Engage U.S. DOT on legislative technical assistance
  • Adopt terminology defined through voluntary technical standards
  • Assess State roadway readiness
  • Consider test driver training and licensing procedures for test vehicles
  • Recognize issues unique to entities offering automated mobility as a service
  • Support safe testing and operations of automated vehicles on public roadways
  • Learn from testing and pilots to support highway system readiness
  • Build organizational capacity to prepare for automated vehicles in communities
  • Identify data needs and opportunities to exchange data
  • Collaborate with stakeholders to review the existing Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC)
  • Support scenario development and transportation planning for automation
  • Work towards compatibility between intrastate and interstate commercial motor vehicle regulations
  • Continued application of roadside inspection procedures
  • Consider needs-based implementation, realistic expectations, changes to workforce and labor needs, a Complete Streets approach, accessibility and engagement and education when incorporating automation into public transit vehicles

While U.S. DOT has put forth this model state policy, it strongly encourages States not to codify this guidance as a legal requirement for any phases of development, testing, or deployment of ADSs to avoid conflicting Federal and State laws and regulations that could impede deployment.



As of Spring 2019, 44 states have proposed and 30 states have enacted legislation pertaining to autonomous vehicles. Another ten states have had governors issue executive orders related to autonomous vehicles. Legislation has generally fallen into the following topic areas:

  • Commercial Vehicle Codes and Requirements
  • Cybersecurity of Vehicle
  • Definitions
  • Infrastructure and Connected Vehicles
  • Insurance and Liability
  • Licensing and Registration
  • Operation on Public Roads
  • Operator Requirements
  • Privacy of Collected Vehicle Data
  • Request for Study
  • Vehicle Inspection Requirements
  • Vehicle Testing
  • Local Restrictions

To learn more about CAV legislation in your state, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Autonomous Vehicles State Bill Tracking Database.




Since 2014, localities have taken action to pass CAV policies that encourage research and testing of new transportation technologies in their communities. Per U.S. DOT, the local role in CAV policy primarily revolves around regulation of local land use – via zoning and permitting – ownership and operation of local roadway, sidewalk and parking infrastructure and enactment and enforcement of local traffic laws. U.S. DOT's guidance further includes best practices for local governments, infrastructure owners and operators and public sector transit industry and stakeholders. Per the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Autonomous Vehicles: A Policy Preparation Guide, “one of the major challenges facing [local governments] is how to promote a regulatory foundation that ensures safety while promoting the continued innovation of autonomous vehicles through increased testing."

Considerations for Local Governments

From U.S. DOT's AV 3.0

U.S. DOT's guidance encourages local governments and local government-related entities to consider:

  • Facilitating safe testing and operation of automated vehicles on local streets
  • The near-term opportunities that automation may provide, including increased driver assistance capabilities and low-speed passenger shuttles
  • How land use, including curb space, and revenues from parking fees and fines will be affected as some predict that the rise of automated vehicles could lead to less need for on- and off-street parking and more need for curb space to pick-up and drop-off passengers
  • The potential for increased congestion, and how it might be managed
  • Engaging with citizens to address their concerns and ensure that automation supports local needs
  • Supporting safe testing and operations of automated vehicles on public roadways
  • Learning from testing and pilots to support highway system readiness
  • Building organizational capacity to prepare for automated vehicles in communities
  • Identifying data needs and opportunities to exchange data
  • Collaborating with stakeholders to review the existing Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC)
  • Supporting scenario development and transportation planning for automation
  • Needs-based implementation, realistic expectations, changes to workforce and labor needs, a Complete Streets approach, accessibility and engagement and education when incorporating automation into public transit vehicles


From NLC's Autonomous Vehicles: A Policy Preparation Guide

Supplementing this guidance from U.S. DOT, NLC urges local governments to consider:

  • Staying informed and engaged on and responding to developments in state and federal laws that could impact the safe operation of CAVs in local communities
  • Examine existing local laws and regulations to identify their potential impact the development or deployment of CAVs
  • Integrate transportation technology into long-term transportation and public transit plans, including the interoperability of V2I infrastructure for cars moving from the urban core to outlying areas within a community
  • Policies that allow for diversified and innovative funding for infrastructure, including linking funding for new technologies with capital improvement and existing maintenance projects
  • Data needs, from processing to storage to protection against cyber threats

Learn more here.

Local CAV Policies

Since at least 2014, local governments have passed a number of policies related to CAV. While there is no database for these policies, a selection of them are highlighted below along with a summary of research by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) on common CAV policy and planning strategies for state and local transportation agencies.

Adopted Local Policies

Counties as independent entities and as part of regional transportation planning organizations have begun to pass resolutions and incorporate language into their long-range plans that encourage and support the testing and deployment of connected and automated vehicles and their associated technologies on local roads. Here are a selection of local policies:


TRB's Policy and Planning Strategies

In 2017, TBR released Advancing Automated and Connected Vehicles: Policy and Planning Strategies for State and Local Transportation Agencies. This publication identified 18 policy and planning strategies that state and local governments could implement to better manage the introduction of CAVs into the market in order to ensure the safety, enhanced mobility and health of residents. These strategies included:

  • Enact Legislation to Legalize AV Testing
  • Enact Legislation to Stimulate CV or AV Testing
  • Modify Driver Training Standards and Curricula
  • Increase Public Awareness of Benefits and Risks
  • Subsidize SAV Use
  • Implement Transit Benefits for SAVs
  • Implement a Parking Cash-Out Strategy
  • Implement Location-Efficient Mortgages
  • Implement Land Use Policies and Parking Requirements
  • Apply Road Use Pricing
  • Implement a No-Fault Insurance Approach
  • Require Motorists to Carry More Insurance
  • Subsidize CVs
  • Invest in CV Infrastructure
  • Grant AVs and CVs Priority Access to Dedicated Lanes
  • Grant Signal Priority to CVs
  • Grant Parking Access to AVs and CVs
  • Implement New Contractual Mechanisms with Private-Sector Providers

For each strategy, TRB assessed its effectiveness, efficiency, political acceptability, operational feasibility, geographic impact (urban, suburban, or rural), who might implement it, and what the key hurdles to implementation might be. Read more about each strategy in Chapter Four of the report, which you can download for free here.




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This section provides an overview of the current state of CAV deployment at the federal, state and local government levels as well as within the automobile industry.


Over the past decade, the federal government has incentivized CAV deployment at the state and local levels through the funding of test beds and pilot deployment projects.

Connected Vehicle Pooled Fund Study

Transportation Pooled Fund studies are joint research and demonstration efforts undertaken by federal, state and local agencies and other organizations to address transportation-related problems that have significant or widespread interest. The Connected Vehicle Pooled Fund Study was created in 2009 to “provide a means to conduct the work necessary for infrastructure providers to play a leading role in” advancing connected vehicle technology, in particular the field demonstration of infrastructure applications. This set of pooled fund studies is led by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and is funded by VDOT, FHWA and 23 other transportation agencies, including Maricopa County. Learn more about the Transportation Pooled Fund Program here and the Connected Vehicle Pooled Fund Study here.


Connected Vehicle Test Beds

The U.S. DOT Connected Vehicle Test Bed is located in Novi, Michigan. It and its affiliated test beds in Virginia, Florida, California, New York and Arizona form a network of live interstate roadways, arterials and signalized and unsignalized intersections in which connected vehicle technology developers can test how their technologies will perform under real-world operating conditions at no cost. As users provide feedback on the testbed, infrastructure is upgraded and enhanced to improve the system. The test beds promote shared resources to support the development and testing of a common architecture and standards as connected vehicles move towards national deployment. Learn more about the program here and the Maricopa County Test Bed here.


Global Cities Teams Challenge

Led by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies, the Global Cities Team Challenge (GCTC) is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities. It was originally established as the SmartAmerica Challenge in 2013 to bring together research and test Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) – technology that allows something to both sense and interact with the world around it – across different sectors and environments. Transportation was one of eight sectors and had four team-based projects associated with it: Autonomous Robotics for Installations and Base Operation (ARIBO), Smart Roads, Smart Vehicle Communication and South East Michigan Smart Transportation. Today, GCTC teams are arranged into nine SuperClusters to aid peer exchange and collaboration, of which transportation is one.  Learn more about GCTC and its other sectors and specific projects here and find the Transportation SuperCluster's Blueprint for Improving First and Last Mile Connections For Transit and Freight, which includes more information on CAVs, here.

One hundred and fifty-three global communities participate across the GCTC, including 17 U.S. county governments.


Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program 

U.S. DOT launched the Connected Vehicle pilot deployment program in 2015 to uncover existing barriers to CV deployment and how to address them. Three pilot sites were selected – New York City; Wyoming; and Tampa – to address their region’s unique transportation needs through the CV deployment and serve as case studies. The three sites were awarded cooperative agreements collectively worth more than $45 million. The projects have been implemented in three phases: concept development; design, build and test; and system impact monitoring. Learn more here.


The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) CV Pilot site focuses on the needs of the commercial vehicle operator to support a flexible range of services from advisories including roadside alerts, parking notifications and dynamic travel guidance. Learn more here

New York City

The NYCDOT CV pilot site aims to improve the safety of travelers and pedestrians in the city to evaluate connected vehicle technology and applications in tightly-spaced intersections typical in a dense urban transportation system. Learn more here


The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is focused on relieving congestion, reducing collisions, and preventing wrong way entry at the Reversible Express Lanes exit during the morning commute. It is also working to enhance pedestrian safety, speed bus operations and reduce conflicts between street cars, pedestrians and passenger cars at locations with high volumes of mixed traffic. Learn more here.



Smart City Challenge

In 2015, U.S. DOT launched the Smart City Challenge. The challenge asked mid-sized communities to apply to receive up to $40 million to help one city fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network. Applications were received from 78 communities, from which seven finalists and eventually one winner, Columbus, Ohio, were selected. Learn more here.


Mobility on Demand Sandbox Demonstration Program

In 2016, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) developed the Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration Program to support communities as they worked to integrate MOD concepts and solutions in real-world settings. MOD allows for the use of on-demand information, real-time data and predictive analysis to provide travelers with transportation choices that best serve their needs and better mobility options for everyone. Eleven transportation authorities -- including 4 counties -- were selected to participate in the program and received a combined total of just under $8 million in funding. Learn more about the program here and the selected communities here.

Four county agencies received funding via this program.

Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program

Authorized as part of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015, the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) program was created to fund the “development of model deployment sites for large scale installation and operation of advanced transportation technologies to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment.” Since its creation, the program has awarded $170 million to fund 28 projects -- 9 of which were county led. Learn more about the program here and the 20162017 and 2018 grant awardees.

Nine county agencies have received funding via this program.

Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds

In November 2016, U.S. DOT launched a solicitation for entities who wished to participate in the automated vehicle proving grounds pilot program which seeks to foster innovation and encourage safe testing, deployment and information sharing around automated vehicle technologies. 60 applications were received from academic institutions, state Departments of Transportation, cities, counties and private entities and partnerships. In January 2017, U.S. DOT selected and designated 10 proving ground pilot sites. Each site has different facilities that can be used to gauge safety, manage various roadways and conditions and handle various types of vehicles. The proving grounds will also provide critical insights into big data usage around automated vehicles. Learn more here.


Automated Driving System Demonstration Grants

U.S. DOT created the Automated Driving System (ADS) Demonstration Grants to fund collaborative demonstration projects that test the safe integration of automated driving systems into the Nation’s on-road transportation system. Lessons learned from these grants will inform rulemakings. In March 2019, U.S. DOT received 73 applications from cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, states, transit agencies, other transportation authorities, and public universities. As of August 2019, awardees have not yet been announced. Learn more about the NOFO here.




As laid out in NGA’s Governors Staying Ahead of the Transportation Innovation Curve: A Policy Roadmap for States, the primary ways states can take – and are taking – advantage of new and emerging transportation technologies with regard to deployment are by:

  • Creating test beds and pilot programs, and enabling agencies, municipalities and universities to study, test and pilot emerging technologies.
  • Partnering directly with private sector, including entering into data-sharing agreements with the private sector.
  • Investing in infrastructure and technology, ensuring that investments are compatible with industry, and anticipate future needs.
  • Establishing transportation research and innovation centers.
  • Creating working groups.

State Bills

A full listing of enacted laws related to “Infrastructure and Connected Vehicles,” “Operation on Public Roads” and “Vehicle Testing” can be found by filtering the data available through NCSL’s Autonomous Vehicles State Bill Tracking Database.

State Preemption 

The interplay between state and local governments is critical in the implementation of connected and automated vehicle pilot programs. To date, a number of states have passed laws that preempt local government from regulating testing in their jurisdictions. These restrictions range from not requiring companies to inform local governments of testing on their roadways to forbidding local governments from regulating or prohibiting pilot programs. Learn more here on page 12.



State Programs

Here is a selection of state CAV programs:



Similar to their counterparts at the state level, local governments are advancing CAV deployment by partnering on and investing in:

Transportation innovation centers

Counties are funding innovation centers to explore transportation technologies through learning labs where ideas can be conceptualized, tested and showcased before being deployed as pilot projects or testbeds.

Existing County Transportation Innovation Centers


Testbeds and pilot programs

Counties and cities across the country have been investing in and testing connected and automated vehicle technology and infrastructure for over a decade. This testing has occurred on public roads and closed courses in partnership with U.S. DOT, state DOTs and other local agencies and universities. Universities in particular have been -- and are -- key partners due to the range of resources they can provide including physical space, technical expertise and other funding opportunities only available tor research institutions.

Local governments have participated in these local testbeds and pilot programs in a range of ways. They have led and funded initiatives, formed public-private partnerships with formal agreements that advance local priorities and allowed private sector programs to run on local roads with no written agreements. While many urban localities have drawn private sector investment organically, others have actively courted investment via public requests for information (RFIs) or request for proposals (RFPs). 

These testbeds and pilot programs have focused – and are focusing – on not only single occupancy vehicles but also automated shuttles and connected vehicle applications for transit, freight and emergency vehicles. Learn more about these individual efforts below.

Existing County Testbeds and Pilot Programs


Working groups

A couple of counties have established connected and/or automated vehicle task forces or working groups to plan for the advancement of these emerging technologies.

Existing Task Forces and Working Groups


Learn more about local CAV deployment efforts in NACo's Connected Counties: Tech Innovations in Transportation, NLC's Autonomous Vehicle Pilots Across America and Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute's Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles



Industry is involved in deployment through the testing and release of new vehicle technologies on roadways, and the partnerships established with other companies and local governments.


A multitude of diverse private entities from the automotive to technology to telecommunication industries are working together to develop connected and automated vehicles and their associated technologies. The network of partnerships and alliances connecting these players is complex and overlapping. These companies are developing not only the hardware and software that make an autonomous vehicle run – internal and external to the car – but also the service industry and applications through which the vehicle is expected to operate and the systems necessary to the collect, analyze and store the amount of data it is expected to accumulate.

At the moment, the cost of the technologies is high and with the frequency with which they are improved, and new upgrades are installed in the cars, autonomous vehicles will not likely come to the market on mass for years. Private industry will also have to work with federal, state and local governments to prepare consumers for autonomous vehicles and the new market they will create around the monetization of the driving process versus the classic car sales model.

Learn more about the companies leading the way in autonomous vehicle development and anticipated changes to the automotive industry market over the next fifteen years in the following articles and reports:


Technology deployment

With regards to automated vehicle deployment, there are currently no Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles on the market; there are, however, Level 1 and 2 automated vehicles as most new cars on the market today feature Level 1 automation features, and several automakers have cars on the market that offer Level 2 automation features. Recent studies have found that driver reaction times in Level 3 vehicles are too slow to take back control when the self-driving systems fail and attempt to pass control back. Therefore, several automakers have decided to skip production of Level 3 vehicles and are focusing on the development of Level 4 automated vehicles for deployment within the next five years.


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Next Steps

County leaders can seize a number of opportunities to leverage new technology innovations to facilitate transportation services design and delivery, improve public safety and promote local and regional economic development. By making minute changes to infrastructure and policies today, counties can prepare themselves to be at the forefront of the mainstream application of connected and autonomous vehicle technology.

Questions for County Leaders

Has your county assessed its potential for CAV deployment?

Many unknowns still exist around whether and how autonomous and connected vehicles can be efficient, safe, cost-effective components of a local transportation system. Before making major decisions dependent on the use of these new technologies, it is critical that county officials and county engineers assess the viability, practicality and suitability of these innovations in their communities.

Local considerations

The advent of the CAV industry could create local opportunities not only for development and testing of the technology, but also to train engineers, planners, lawyers and other professionals on the planning, equipment, infrastructure and legal and financial implications of the industry. Each county needs to consider its unique needs, assets and opportunities. What is best for one county might not work for another.


New funding and partnerships

Investment in connected and autonomous vehicle testing can lead to new funding avenues for demonstration projects and partnerships with researchers, manufacturers and federal or state agencies. Counties can explore partnerships with researchers and manufacturers, federal or state agencies to use county roadways as a testing lab or, depending on state legislation, raise public funds locally for infrastructure upgrades.


Fleet management

Counties may consider integrating various forms of connected and autonomous vehicle technology into county-owned fleets. What are the costs involved, and what are the risks?


Has your county examined local traffic patterns or assessed local safety data with an eye to CAV deployment?

What roads are used the most? What routes do commuters travel? Where are the local congestion and incident hot spots? How would connected infrastructure to those intersections help reduce the number of those crashes? These data can help to identify locations most suitable for imminent upgrades.


Does your county have an idea of how residents and stakeholders will react to the introduction of CAVs to the market?

If not, it might be useful to assemble a CAV task force or coalition of stakeholders to voice concerns and identify approaches to implementation in your community. Stakeholders could include not only county planners and engineers, but also citizens groups, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives and legal counsel. A few issues to think about ahead of time might be the:

Impact on individual privacy

County governments need to be aware of risks inherent to sharing and manipulating information, including both individual privacy concerns and businesses’ needs to protect sensitive information. When residents’ movements can be tracked, how does the government protect their privacy?


Legal liability

Who will be held responsible in an accident, the driver/user or the manufacturer? How will law enforcement adapt to these new users? In the case of county-owned vehicles, what kinds of liability coverage need to be considered?


Expanded mobility The use of autonomous and connected vehicles can expand opportunities for the non-driving population—such as disabled or elderly persons—to travel, thus expanding opportunities for employment, education and accessing services. Additionally, many transit agencies and jurisdictions are beginning to explore how the use of autonomous vehicles can assist with “last-mile” connections to transit services.


Does your county already have local CAV policies?

Counties with policies encouraging connected and autonomous vehicle development can create an atmosphere where smart tech hubs can thrive. By attracting new manufacturing and tech companies, counties can benefit from new economic investment in the community.

What are your local policies around connected and autonomous vehicle technology? What are your local land use policies? How might the introduction of autonomous or connected vehicles affect the built environment and the future vision for the community?  How should planned infrastructure upgrades be reconsidered or made more flexible to accommodate future technology innovations in transportation? Do you have any policies that might hamper the introduction of CAVs to your community?

Some existing policies may hinder not only the implementation but also the development of autonomous vehicles. It is important to know where your state and county rules and regulations stand. It must be noted, however, that technology is changing at such a rapid pace that any newly adopted laws allowing for the advancement of connected and autonomous vehicles must not only account for the technology developed this year but also must be flexible enough to encompass the eventual technology of the year to come.


Has your county examined the potential implications of broad CAV deployment on its transportation system and economy?

Improved functionality

With vehicles connected to each other and to the grid, traffic congestion could be reduced. Vehicles should be able to travel with fewer stops at traffic signals thanks to optimized communication, and the use of traffic signals and vehicles equipped with appropriate communication technology (e.g. DSRC, 5G, etc.) for signal preemption, such as emergency and transit vehicles.


Revenue implications

Increased usage of driverless vehicles may have an impact on local revenue streams from local traffic management and policing, such as parking tickets, parking fees, or speeding tickets and other traffic violations.  Relatedly, local costs for providing parking or managing congestion could increase or decrease in differing scenarios.


Infrastructure costs

Installing connected vehicles technology on or within infrastructure can be expensive. How will counties and other governments finance potential infrastructure upgrades? How will autonomous vehicles safely operate in sections of counties and other jurisdictions that do not include connected vehicle technology seamlessly throughout their domain? How will they operate in rural areas?



The transition from roads filled with only driver-controlled vehicles to roads filled with autonomous vehicles or a mix of driver-controlled and autonomous vehicles is not assured, and will not be immediate. How will autonomous vehicles react to vehicles with which they cannot communicate and which operate independent of the grid? What happens if passengers of driverless cars need to assume control of the vehicle but are unable to do so? What happens in cases of system failure? How can manufacturers ensure driverless cars stay in their road lanes even in inclement weather? Manufacturers and researchers are working on solutions to address the many unknowns and create safeguards for a myriad of potential scenarios, but many more questions abound.  County leaders will need to investigate and consider the risks and safeguards available, and communicate with the public on these topics as the field evolves.


Opportunities Safety is the major factor leading governments to invest in connected and autonomous vehicles and infrastructure. By eliminating the human element of the driver, manufacturers, researchers, and government agencies predict that traffic accidents, especially fatal ones, will decrease substantially, due to the reduction of human error.




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