Driverless vehicles – coming to a road near you?

autonomous_vehicleImagine vehicles that can steer, brake and drive themselves without the need for human intervention.  Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority Executive Director Joe Waggoner laid out that vision at the September 3rd meeting of the Hillsborough MPO, likening its impact to the introduction of railroads or automobiles.

So-called “autonomous vehicles” could feature automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, route guidance and other advanced controls to recognize and avoid hazards and group themselves into more compact “platoons” or “caravans.”  The potential benefit?  Reduced traffic delays, fewer collisions, less pedestrian deaths, less need for parking, reduced need for highway lanes and maybe even fewer cars per household.

Only three states – California, Nevada and Florida – currently allow the operation of driverless vehicles, but developers predict wider implementation within the next 20 years.

Mr. Waggoner noted that the Expressway Authority is collaborating with the FDOT and USF’s Center for Urban Transportation (CUTR) to use the Selmon Expressway, Brandon Parkway, and Meridian Avenue as test beds for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems.  MPO members enthusiastically supported the opportunity for Tampa Bay to become a leader in autonomous vehicle technology, research, policy development and related high-tech businesses.

The Expressway Authority commissioned CUTR to conduct a study of the potential for automated vehicle technology to be a regional catalyst.  THEA and FDOT are co-sponsoring a summit on this topic to be held November 14 and 15. For more information, contact the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority at 813/272-6740.

Photo courtesy of Nissan.