The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) announced that the Selmon Expressway is about to make history, again. Approved by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) , the Expressway has met the criteria to become an automated vehicle test bed. THEA is joining a small affiliation of other test bed locations nationwide, and only the second one in Florida.
In partnership with the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) Automated Vehicle Institute, THEA proposed the Selmon Expressway as a test bed positions Tampa Bay to become one of the nation’s leading centers of research for automated vehicle technology.
The test bed provides researchers the capability to test the safety, mobility, environmental and efficiency advantages, services, standards and components of the robotic cars “within the latest technology standards and architecture consistent with the United States Department of Transportation’s Vehicle-To-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) research program,” according to the RITA Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. “It will allow for application testing with the focus and potential to save lives and provide continuous real-time connectivity among users.”
Further into the future, planners and engineers expect driverless cars to result in fewer navigational errors, collisions and accidents, reduced traffic congestion, increased traffic flow, and higher allowable speeds. Automated cars may also provide expanded mobility for users of any age, disability or intoxication level, drastically reduced need for near-by parking and redundant drivers (since robotic cars would not need human drivers), as well as reduced need for police, vehicle insurance, taxi services and road signage.
Florida became the second state in the nation allowing automated vehicles to operate on its roads when State Representative Jeff Brandes (R - St Petersburg), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, championed legislation in the 2012 Legislative Session, saying “I am glad that our local community leaders are taking the bold steps to bring technology solutions to our growing community… with projects like these, Tampa Bay will be at the cutting edge of transportation innovation.”