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FHWA Plans New Edition of National Traffic Control Manual to Address Innovation, Get Ready for Automated Vehicles

Updated manual to focus on new highway technologies

WASHINGTON – The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) today announced it is pursuing an update to the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways”—the MUTCD—in preparation for the future of automated vehicles and to afford states and local communities with more opportunities to utilize innovation.

“The new manual will be forward-looking in accommodating technologies necessary to support highway connectivity, automation and innovations that improve safety and efficiency,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson said. “The revised edition will lay the groundwork for supporting the infrastructure of the future.”

The MUTCD update was announced as part of USDOT’s release of new federal guidance for automated vehicles — “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0″

The MUTCD is the national standard for traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings.  The last edition was published in 2009 and was revised in 2012. The upcoming new edition will propose to update the technical provisions to reflect advances in technologies and operational practices, incorporate recent trends and innovations, and set the stage for automated driving systems as those continue to take shape.

The publication of a new edition will propose to streamline processes and reduce burdens on state and local agencies by adopting many of the successful devices that have resulted from some of the 150 official experiments that FHWA has approved, including congestion-reduction strategies such as variable speed limits, dynamic lane control and shoulder use and pedestrian safety enhancements such as the rectangular rapid-flashing beacon and crosswalk marking patterns. Overall, the new edition will propose to allow more flexibility and innovation to improve travel for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Hendrickson added that FHWA’s goal was to ensure that the MUTCD improve the public’s travel experience – whether driving on the interstate or in a large city, small town or rural America—and that FHWA was being responsive to stakeholders who requested an update to the MUTCD.

As part of the process of updating the Manual, FHWA will seek input from the public nationwide, including state and local traffic engineers, traffic control device technicians and other stakeholders.  The proposed changes are expected to be released for public review and comment next spring.

The FHWA has administered the MUTCD since 1971 and has published six editions.  The MUTCD was first published in 1935 to establish uniform and easily recognizable traffic control features on the highways as car travel increased.  While technologies and travel trends have evolved since 1935, the need for uniformity—for the safe and efficient movement of road users—still remains today.

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