Safe-D: Safety through Disruption

Identification of Railroad Requirements for the Future Automated and Connected Vehicle (AV/CV) Environment


According to Federal Rail Administration (FRA) numbers, in 2015 there were approximately 129,582 public, at-grade highway-rail grade crossings in the U.S. Despite this large number of direct intersections between the public highway and largely private rail systems, little of the current ITS AV/CV research is focused on how to incorporate the railroad system and its operations/required safety information effectively into future roadway AV/CV system planning. This initial scanning project will examine how transportation agencies, contractors, and other highway system stakeholders designing future automated and connected systems can best consider freight and passenger railroad operational and infrastructure needs in the development of future AV/CV system architecture. The project will explore:

  • • information/data requirements for roadway vehicles to operate effectively near rail crossings,
  • • impediments to collecting and exchanging rail operations data between public agency and private rail operators,
  • • potential AV/CV implementation approaches near rail system assets that could benefit both systems, and
  • • critical, necessary additional research efforts in both the short- and long-term to address future joint railroad/highway AV/CV architecture challenges.

Project Highlights

  • The introduction of Automated and Connected Vehicles (AV/CVs) to roadways will require special treatment at Highway Rail Grade Crossing (HRGC) locations where road vehicles and rail vehicles interact. This project examined basic questions on how railroad operational activities and the introduction of Positive Train Control (PTC) might be taken into account by those planning AV/CV implementation. 
  • While the idea of using PTC system information for providing train location information to roadway vehicles seemed promising, this option was not supported by the project’s findings for several reasons. As initially implemented, data sharing from PTC by railroad companies is not an option at this time and, moreover, PTC implementation covers less than 40% of the nation’s rail miles.  
  • While the idea of using PTC system information for providing train location information to roadway vehicles seemed promising, this option was not supported by the project’s findings for several reasons. As initially implemented, data sharing from PTC by railroad companies is not an option at this time and, moreover, PTC implementation covers less than 40% of the nation’s rail miles. 

Final Report

02-019 Final Report

EWD & T2 Products

AV-CV and RR Crossings Presentation was created by the project team to give a description of the project and provide a summary of their findings for use in academic or professional presentations.

Student Impact Statement (PDF): Dahye Lee, a Ph. D. student from Texas A&M University was funded under this project. This file contains a statement of the impact this project made on Dahye’s education and workforce development.


FHWA-FRA Joint Webinar: AVs and CAVs at Rail Crossings (SR500A), April 17, 2019. Presentation/Archived in the FHWA-FRA Joint Webinar Series section at: (Accepted)

Railroad Requirements for AV/CV Infrastructure Planning, ASME Joint Rail Conference: Presentation, April 11, 2019. (Accepted) 

Morgan, C. (2019). Railroad Considerations for the Future Connected and Automated Vehicle Environment. Presentation at the 2019 National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Conference, Pittsburgh, PA. (Published)

TRB AR070 Rail Operational Safety Committee Meeting: Autonomous Technology Discussion, January 15, 2019 (Published)

“2019 TRB Annual Meeting Lectern Session: Considering Railroad System Interaction with Automated/ Connected Vehicle Planning, Lectern Session 1353, Autonomous Train Technology: The Challenges of Implementation, Part 2, January 14, 2019. ” (Published)

Transportation Research Board (TRB) Human Factors Workshop Session F – “Safety Issues of Co-Existing Human and Autonomous Machine Operations,” January 13, 2019 (Published)

Research Investigators (PI*)

Curtis Morgan*
Jeff Warner (TTI)
Dahye Lee (TTI)
David Florence (TTI)

Project Information

Start Date: 2017-06-01
End Date: 2018-05-31
Status: Completed
Grant Number: 69A3551747115
Total Funding: $77,000
Source Organization: Safe-D National UTC
Project Number: 02-019

Safe-D Theme Areas

Automated Vehicles
Connected Vehicles
Big Data Analytics

Safe-D Application Areas

Driver Factors and Interfaces
Infrastructure Technology
Planning for Safety
Operations and Design
Vehicle Technology
Freight and Heavy Vehicle

More Information

UTC Project Information Form

Sponsor Organization

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
University Transportation Centers Program
Department of Transportation
Washington, DC 20590 United States

Performing Organization

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
3135 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-3135