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Rhode Island Ready to Enter Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem

With the release of a request for information, the smallest state in the country is hoping to have an outsized role in the future of transportation.

by / June 12, 2017
The 6/10 connector runs through Providence and its suburbs. (Rhode Island Department of Transportation)

Rhode Island is calling out for experts, academics and interest groups for connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) that could transform the state’s transportation ecosystem. Whether it's a private company looking to test out a fleet of autonomous shuttles or a driverless transportation network, Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are ready to listen.

On June 7, RIDOT published an RFI (PDF) seeking advice and suggestions on how to position the state as a leader in the developing the transportation system of the future. Although the primary focus is on how to adapt and get ready for CAVs, the document also states RIDOT’s interest in “other innovative transport system technologies such as on-demand ride-sharing services, and high-speed intercity and inter-suburb transporter technology.”

Regional states have already begun working in this space. Boston is working on an autonmous vehicle strategy in partnership with the World Economic Forum and released their Go Boston 2030 transportation plan. New York is taking applications for autonomous vehicle testing in the state and was chosen by the U.S. DOT as a test site for connected vehicle technologies. Pennsylvania has entered into a multi-state coalition with Ohio and Michigan to explore the future of inter-state transportation.

"By embracing innovation in transportation, we are positioning Rhode Island to be a leader and we will create jobs,” said Gov. Raimondo in a release. “By launching this process, we will be prepared to make best use of new and emerging technologies."

The RFI is broken down into six primary questions:

  • Possible public-private partnerships
  • Impact on the state's long-range capital planning process
  • Regional safety programs (including law enforcement and security)
  • Environmental impact
  • Identification of law or regulation gaps
  • Workforce impact and professional training needs

The state is interested in seeing who will come to the state with proposals and what the future of transportation in the state will look like. Respondents are encouraged to “conceptually propose how you envision a proof-of-concept or pilot CAV or on-demand ride sharing service deployment.” Five locations are listed as potential locations, which include smart transportation corridors, business parks and university campuses.

"This is a time of rapid innovation in the automotive sector, as products adapt to develop and incorporate new technology, and meet changing consumer demand," RIDOT's Chief Operating Officer Shoshana Lew said. "There is an opportunity to help integrate that conversation with infrastructure planning and execution. Rhode Island can be a place where we help bring those threads together.

Submissions are due to the Department of Administration by July 12, in both hardcopy and CD-ROM.

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