There’s little question that the entire transportation industry is on the cusp of major revolutions, and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has announced new programs that ensure those revolutions occur in America.
When Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz, first unveiled the F015 Luxury in Motion Research Vehicle, it was with much optimism for the future of autonomous vehicles. Its unveiling at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January marked the first time a car had been unveiled there, and Mercedes-Benz’s keynote address was the center of the conference’s events.
Autonomous driving, Zetsche explained, had been perfected by the marque for quite some time, but there were a few major roadblocks standing in the way- namely, consumers, infrastructure and legislation. Since consumers don’t yet trust cars that can operate without humans, legislation has yet to be put in place that allows for these cars to operate. As a result, the infrastructure that could create safer autonomous vehicles hasn’t been built.
But when we’re talking about infrastructure, we’re not just talking about roadways being built. It’s a little less tangible than that, and exists in the realm of “the internet of things.” Essentially, roadways, traffic lights, stop signs and cars need to be able to communicate with each other so that self-driving cars can make driving decisions.
Add the cellphones of pedestrians to that equation, and a car can tell from a mile away and fifteen blocks over where there’s congestion because of a broken traffic light or where someone is crossing the road. It’s a city of connected cars and connected roadways, with the potential to reduce traffic, increase safety and much more.
In a statement from the USDOT yesterday, Sept. 14, three locations were announced that are about to become the connected cities of tomorrow. A total of $42 million will be invested in New York City, Tampa, Florida and the state of Wyoming to roll out the national Connected Vehicle Pilot deployment program.
“Tampa’s emergence as an incubator for innovation and pursuit of innovative transportation solutions continues to be recognized,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a Sept. 14 statement from the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA).
New York City will be installing Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) technology in 10,000 city-owned vehicles, while traffic signals will be upgraded with Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) tech. Wyoming will be using the V2V and V2I tech to test its impact on commercial transport across the state, particularly on the I-80 east-west corridor, where between 11,000 and 16,000 vehicles travel each day.
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Tampa will be receiving $17 million from the USDOT to see if these technologies can help decrease the city’s notorious downtown congestion. Pedestrians in Tampa will also have their smartphones equipped with the same V2V tech as the cars, in an effort to increase their safety. The city is also set to measure the environmental benefits of using this technology, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re bringing transportation into the 21st century, and Florida is going to be at the center of it all,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the statement from THEA.
With the launch of this pilot program, Zetsche’s dream of seeing autonomous vehicles on the road may come true much sooner than initially anticipated. In fact, as Zetsche said in an interview with Reuters during the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Mercedes-Benz hopes to unveil autonomous, on-demand limousine services to compete with Uber.
Perhaps, then, Tampa will be one of the first places to enjoy such a luxury.
Stay with us for more updates from the automotive world as they are released.
(Source: USDOT, Reuters, Mercedes-Benz, YouTube)