Don’t expect to see driverless cars speeding out of downtown, but the city has begun talks with the Texas Transportation Institite to be a home for testing automated and connected cars.
“San Antonio is very interested,” TTI’s Christopher Poe tells Newsradio 1200 WOAI. “One of the areas of interest is the Fredericksburg Rd. corridor, especially with the bus rapid transit.”
The talks come now that there is a framework in place between the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to begin testing the emerging automotive technologies on the state highway system. It allows TTI to test lab-proven technologies in a real-world environment.
Arthur Reinhardt, Transportation & Capital Improvements Assistant Director, says a decision is expected this year.
“The partnership will be helpful by allowing each of the partners to share expertise, and will offer a wide variety of demonstration sites to help expedite deployment of Automated Vehicle technologies. Participating in this partnership will help further enable our City to serve as a leader in transportation innovation.”
Poe says, as companies like Google and Uber step up self-driving tests, one of the biggest problems is when they encouter unexpected road problems
“Where they strugle is where they come across work zones and pot holes,” he says.
TxDot is, so far, embracing the idea of real world testing of a high tech connection between cars and the infrastucture. Executive Direcotor James Bass says it’s a trend that can’t be ignored.
“As the transportation industry is on the leading edge of this transformation, testing is vital in real driving environments. We’re excited to be part of that along with Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and Texas Department of Public Safety to make sure those technologies are tested in the safest possible ways.”
TTI is developing a plan with TxDOT that details the technology to be tested, how it performed in previous laboratory and controlled tests, where it will be tested and for how long. Poe says, to be successful, the experaments must be in both rural and urban environments. For rural roads, inital plans are near the Texas A&M campus. For the urban area, he likes the idea of testing along Fredericksburg Rd. because of the technology already in place for Bus Rapid Transit. The buses coordiante with traffic signals to speed riders between downtown and the medical center.
“If we can make roads smarter, the roads and communicate where potholes are and where crashes are taking place.”
The idea is to communicate that, along with emergencies like wrong way cars, to drivers as a way to cut down on accidents and improve traffic flow.
“Those technologies range from detection of wrong way drivers, to new pavement markings and signs that can be read by automated vehicles,” said TTI Assistant Agency Director Christopher Poe, the Institute’s CV/AV transportation strategy lead. “Working with TxDOT, the first real-world technology testing plans under this agreement could begin within months.”
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