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Planning for the Future by Maintaining Existing Roads and Bridges

Mark Doliner/Creative Commons

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s plan to keep up with emerging automotive technology—like self-driving vehicles-- is to maintain existing roads and bridges. But that strategy may face challenges as cars become more efficient and less reliant on gasoline. The state’s road fund relies heavily on revenue from gas taxes.

A report from the Center for Automotive Research, a non-profit research group, forecasts fully automated vehicles could be ready for mass production by 2040. Bernard Swiecki is with the Center’s Industry Labor Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research. He said communities need to take into consideration the likelihood of more self-driving and electric vehicles when building a new facility.

“Where even if you don’t, for example install a charging station when you’re building a new facility you might install all the conduits and sort of make it installation ready in anticipation of a future need,” he said.  

Swiecki said many autonomous vehicles are forecast to be electric, which means they’ll need a place to charge. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s road plan relies heavily on revenue from gas taxes. An unintended consequence of increasing fuel efficiency is less money flowing the gas tax into the state's coffers. Naitore Djigbenou is a spokesperson for the state’s transportation cabinet. She doesn’t think the roadway needs of autonomous vehicles will be much different than the needs of other cars on the road today.

“I can’t think of any specific improvements that need to be made just to accommodate the automated vehicles that’s different than what we would want for people right now that are driving standard vehicles,” she said.

Djigbenou said planning for autonomous and electric vehicles is less about Kentucky’s infrastructure and more about legislation. However, she said the transportation cabinet does have an internal working group of employees from various departments focused on emerging vehicle technology.

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