– Interview with an expert –

Jim Barbaresso, National Practice Leader, Intelligent Transportation Systems, HNTB Corporation

Part 2



We recently published the [first part of our interview with Jim Barbaresso from HNTB Corporation, in which he shared his views on the potential business cases for automated vehicles, explained how they may develop over the next decade and set out how policy-makers and regulators might support the development of automated vehicles. 

Read the second part of our interview below, in which he talks about the challenges and opportunities autonomous vehicles present for urban planners, as well as the role the industry should play in educating consumers about the safety of automated technologies.  

What challenges and opportunities will driverless vehicles create for urban planners?

Construction planning drawings

“The primary challenge is related to uncertainty,” says Barbaresso. With people able to eat, work and sleep in their vehicles, “planners can argue that automated vehicles will increase urban sprawl”, he says, as people choose to live further from employment centres.

“There is risk in this approach, but there is also reward.”

However, others believe that automated vehicles will “offer new mobility options, reduce parking requirements, and provide a more walkable urban environment”, he says. “We are in the ‘dilemma zone’ when it comes to forecasting future traffic volumes.”

Rather than waiting for the future to happen, Barbaresso says that planners can use this uncertainty as a tool to influence policies to “invent” the future of mobility. “There is risk in this approach, but there is also reward.”

“I like to say, ‘Disruption creates opportunity’,” says Barbaresso. “For every disruption in how we plan, design, and implement mobility solutions, there are multiple new opportunities to deliver such services.”

Autonomous vehicles will generate a lot of data – what commercial opportunities might this data create?

“Autonomous vehicles will generate a lot of data if they are also connected,” says Barbaresso. “This is key.”
As a result, he believes there are commercial opportunities “at every step in the value chain” – including data collection; data communication; data management, aggregation and distribution; data analytics; and the development of new apps and mobility solutions.

Diagram showing the data value chain [image courtesy of HNTB corporation]

Diagram showing the data value chain [image courtesy of HNTB corporation]

Surveys show many consumers are not yet convinced about driverless car safety. What should the industry do to help alleviate these concerns?

Barbaresso believes that continuing advances in sensor technology and connectivity will support improvements in safety. “Right now, the technologies supporting vehicle automation are in their infancy,” he says. 

“Consumer acceptance of the technologies will grow as confidence in the technologies grows.”

As a result, he suggests that the industry works with regulatory bodies on rules that make sense from a safety perspective.

As the level of vehicle automation increases over the next few years, “consumer education will be critical”, says Barbaresso. For example, he says, operators of semi-automated vehicles will need to understand their limitations.

However, “Consumer acceptance of the technologies will grow as confidence in the technologies grows,” he predicts.

Barbaresso also points to the role connectivity will have in improving safety, as it is integrated with automation. “This will provide an added layer of safety that ‘autonomous’ vehicles don’t have,” he says.

What impact will autonomous and connected vehicles have on the environment/energy consumption?

“It is difficult to envision a robot pumping gas at the corner station.”

There are a number of likely impacts, says Barbaresso, highlighting as an example the fuel savings that will be achieved from platooning vehicles. While some of these savings will come from drafting effects, he says, efficiencies will also come from smoother highway traffic flows that reduce starting and stopping. Other applications will help to reduce engine idling – for example at intersections.

It is also likely that fully automated vehicles will be electric, he says. “It is difficult to envision a robot pumping gas at the corner gas station,” notes Barbaresso, but less hard to imagine an electric, automated vehicle recharging by parking over a wireless induction pad. 

“This will result in cleaner air and a healthier environment, along with reduced energy consumption,” he predicts.

What are you looking forward to most about the arrival of self-driving cars?

Red asphalt roadway Redrock Canyon Utah Backroads

Barbaresso says that he is looking forward to “a greater sense of freedom from the toils of driving” when fully autonomous vehicles arrive. “I can be more productive. If I want, I can also enjoy the view”, he says.

Transport users will also have “a greater sense of empowerment” in future, he believes, as vehicle connectivity and automation combine to provide multiple mobility choices. 

“This empowerment is already beginning to happen with mobile apps, and will be amplified when the transportation system is seamlessly connected and automated,” says Barbaresso.

This shift will change the form of our cities and create a more liveable environment, he predicts. 

“That is truly exciting and transformative. I can’t wait.”

About the expert

Jim Barbaresso, National Practice Leader, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Vice President and HNTB Fellow, HNTB Corporation

Jim Barbaresso is the national practice leader for intelligent transportation systems at HNTB Corporation and has more than three decades of industry experience. The firm’s ITS capabilities include the development of advanced and active traffic management systems and the latest advancements in connected and automated transportation technologies.

Since 2005, Barbaresso and HNTB have been involved in a growing number of projects related to the national Connected Vehicle initiative, including designing and building one of the first live test beds with the Michigan Department of Transportation. He was active in the 2016 Smart Cities initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Find out more about Intelligent Transportation Systems at HNTB


Previous interview

In the first of a new series of interviews with autonomous driving industry leaders and experts, we hear from HNTB Corporation's Jim Barbaresso about how automated vehicles might develop over the next decade.