The Fuse

Graphics Highlighting the Need for Infrastructure Investment, Avoiding a Patchwork of AV Legislation

by SAFE Policy Team | May 12, 2017

Today, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) released its quarterly update to the Energy Security Fact Pack, a data-driven overview of the latest trends in energy security, including domestic and global oil production, consumption patterns, oil market dynamics and prices, and up-to-date information on fuel efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles. The latest Fact Pack contains a number of data points showing the urgency of investing in transportation infrastructure and the necessity of avoiding piecemeal autonomous vehicle legislation throughout the U.S.

Rather than implementing a patchwork of state legislation, the U.S. will need a well-connected transportation system with comprehensive and national infrastructure standards in order to handle coming changes with AV technology.

Rather than implementing a patchwork of state legislation, the U.S. will need a well-connected transportation system with comprehensive and national infrastructure standards in order to handle coming changes with AV technology. As of now, 12 states have passed AV legislation, with a handful of others considering laws at this point. Some states, such as California and Florida, are already considering new bills after having already passed legislation. Without a consistent federal framework, the differences at the state level could significantly slow testing and deployment of groundbreaking technology.

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More and more data cast a spotlight on the state of American infrastructure, specifically, the state of interstate and public roadways. Simply put, Americans are driving more, industry is expanding freight tonnage, and roadways are accordingly feeling the strain. This week, the Financial Times reported that this year’s demand for gasoline may be catching up to record 2016 levels despite retail prices registering a seven percent increase y-o-y and states taking steps to hike gas taxes. Americans drove a record 267 billion miles in Q1 2017, a seven percent increase over Q1 2012. A growing proportion of those miles are now being driven by light trucks, which accounted for 65 percent of new light-duty vehicle (LDV) purchases in Q1 (+10 percentage points over Q1 2012).

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Forecasts show that building the amount of infrastructure needed to deal with future economic growth will be a daunting challenge. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), freight by truck will account for nearly three-quarters of the 5 billion ton increase in freight movement expected over the next three decades. By 2045, annual tonnage transported throughout the U.S. will total about 21 billion tons.

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Some states are already moving ahead with infrastructure plans with 20 percent of the nation’s roads in “poor” condition, based on an analysis from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Since 2015, 20 states passed comprehensive transportation infrastructure packages to boost funding for deteriorating public roadways. More legislatures are considering similar measures this year, although three proposed measures have already failed.

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One positive development on the infrastructure front is the rapid increase in the number of electric charging stations. The number of advanced fueling stations nationwide has increased 112 percent between 2013 and 2017, a net addition of approximately 30,400 stations. The vast majority of these new additions (94 percent) were for electric charging.

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