U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
The most commonly known ongoing work related to pavement markings is the FHWA effort to develop national standards for minimum maintained pavement marking retroreflectivity levels for the MUTCD. In addition, there is interest to determine crash modification factors associated with pavement marking retroreflectivity levels. As connected vehicle and automated vehicle applications and technologies are deployed over the next decade or two, the potential to significantly improve vehicle safety may depend on the use of enhanced or innovative pavement markings.
Connected vehicles are currently one of the main areas of focus of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (JPO). Connected vehicle safety applications will enable drivers to have 360-degree awareness of hazards and situations they cannot even see. Through in-car warnings, drivers will be alerted to imminent crash situations, such as unintended lane departures, unintended run off the roadway situations, or when a vehicle ahead brakes suddenly. By communicating with enhanced or innovative infrastructure such as pavement markings, drivers will be alerted to potential safety, operational and environment vulnerabilities well in advance, helping them to eliminate or mitigate potentially hazardous situations.
Vehicle manufacturers such as General Motors have reported to Congress that pavement markings are one of the most significant infrastructure elements needed to guide automated vehicles and realize the estimated safety benefits of such vehicles. Knowing that pavement marking is one of the key highway elements used to guide automated vehicles, work is needed to better understand how to quantify characteristics and interactions between onboard sensors and pavement markings so that they will be detectable by the vehicle system in as many conditions as possible–that is, rain, low sun, high glare, and fog. The variety of contrast enhancements used for pavement markings also need to be evaluated–determining how the vehicle systems will read these markings, which are intended to improve human vision but may not be as beneficial for machine vision. Non-reflective raised pavement markers and profiled markings are also of interest.
Another issue of interest is adding more technology to markings to increase their usefulness, such as magnetic markings or markings with Quick Response (QR) codes or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. These enhanced markings could be used in strategic areas such as in advance of horizontal curves. Vehicles could read these enhanced markings and compute safe speeds for the specific vehicle and specific roadway conditions (as opposed to one advisory speed that does not adapt to vehicles or roadway conditions).
One more area that looks potentially promising is solar roads and digital pavement markings.(56)