Civil and Environmental Engineering


First Advisor

Dr. Joshua Steelman

Date of this Version

Summer 7-29-2021


Loken, A.E., Establishing Safe Operating Speeds for Autonomous Vehicles: A Case Study from the Automated Skyway Express in Jacksonville, Florida, Masters Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, July 2021


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Civil Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Joshua S. Steelman. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2021

Copyright © 2021 Andrew E. Loken


Autonomous vehicles (AVs) differ significantly from traditional passenger vehicles in both their behavior and physical characteristics. As such, the validity of the guidance provided in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware, Second Edition (MASH 2016) is questionable in AV applications. Impact conditions specified in MASH 2016 are inextricably linked to the traditional vehicles underlying the estimates. For AV applications, conditions must be estimated from the ground up, stepping outside the guidance of MASH 2016. Herein, a method for evaluating existing infrastructure to support AV traffic is proposed. The method integrates traditional structural analyses with unconventional methods of estimating impact conditions. This methodology was developed for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, who, when faced with unique challenges in maintaining and expanding their Automated Skyway Express, opted to convert the system from monorail to AV traffic. Leading AV developers were surveyed to develop a portfolio of potential candidates for the conversion. Then, estimated impact conditions were compared against the capacity of the system’s existing bridge rails. Ultimately, safe operating speeds for each AV candidate were recommended on the bases of structural capacity and vehicle stability. Although the methodology was developed for a particular case, it is applicable to future implementations of AVs on existing infrastructure, provided the roadway is confined similarly to the Skyway track.

Advisor: Joshua S. Steelman