Texas has been designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) as a national Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground for the testing of connected and automated vehicle technologies to solve community challenges, thanks to an alliance of public transportation agencies, a network of research institutions, and municipal governments throughout the state.
The Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership includes the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and 32 municipal and regional partners with a shared interest in the mobility and safety challenges facing the introduction of autonomous and connected vehicles to public roadways.
“This partnership is a winning team of state and local agencies, university transportation research institutes and industry that will help move Texas to the forefront in research and testing of connected and automated vehicles,” said Chancellor John Sharp of The Texas A&M University System. “We are pleased that some of this testing will take place at the A&M System’s RELLIS Campus , which is dedicated to world-class research and technology development.”
“With five of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities in Texas and our population expected to potentially double by the year 2050, Texas must be a leader in new technology that addresses transportation challenges,” said Texas Department of Transportation Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams. “This partnership puts Texas at the forefront of automated vehicle technologies that likely will shape the future of transportation around the world.”
Selected from an applicant pool of more than 60, the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership joins nine other designees in a community of practice that will be instrumental in helping the DOT provide critical insights into optimal big data usage and further develop guidelines for developing automated vehicle technologies. In working collaboratively, the ultimate goal is to offer services that connect people to places of opportunity.
“There is no place better than Texas, with its favorable business climate and geographic diversity, to evaluate the technologies essential to meeting the nation’s transportation challenges,” said Gregory D. Winfree, TTI agency director. “The partnership that led to this designation reflects a shared commitment among Texas’ leading transportation research entities, governmental agencies and municipalities to work together to meet these challenges.”
Texas offers a full and varied range of testing environments, from high-speed barrier-separated managed lanes to low-speed urban environments such as university campuses, medical districts, transit bus corridors and border crossings. Both closed-course facilities and real-world urban and freight test sites will be used in evaluating emerging transportation technologies. By implementing a pilot-learn-scale model of deployment, Texas is prepared to safely conduct testing and operations in an iterative manner as the technology develops.
The partnership builds upon the momentum of USDOT’s Smart City Challenge and is a direct outcome of the Texas Mobility Summit held last month. The Summit, hosted by TxDOT’s Texas Technology Task Force, brought together nine teams representing 10 cities and three research institutions to galvanize key leadership in developing innovative solutions to the state’s mobility challenges. The resulting alliance is dedicated to openly sharing best practices as a cornerstone of the effort.
Members of the Texas partnership are contributing their facilities, expertise and talents as a part of a larger Texas network of proving grounds and test-bed sites. Proving grounds offer controlled environments on research campuses where the complete life-cycle development of AVs can be assessed and include the Texas A&M University System RELLIS Campus and Texas A&M’s Proving Grounds, The University of Texas at Austin Campus and the SwRI Campus in San Antonio. Urban and freight test beds in the following cities offer real-world environments where a variety of scenarios may be explored:
- Austin Area – Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Riverside Drive corridor
- Houston Area – Texas Medical Center, Houston METRO HOV lanes, and Port of Houston
- Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington Area – UTA campus, Arlington streets, I-30 corridor and managed lanes
- San Antonio Area – Fredericksburg Road/Medical Drive corridor and bus rapid transit system
- El Paso Area – Tornillo/Guadalupe Port of Entry
With five of the nation’s 15 fastest growing cities located in Texas and the state’s population expected to more than double by the year 2050, Texas seeks to manage this disruption proactively rather than allow rapid urbanization to stifle the state’s economy.
One of the strengths of the Texas partnership is that AV testing, for both TxDOT and private companies, is already underway at the research proving grounds, well ahead of the USDOT’s January 2018 launch goal.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute: Dr. Christopher Poe, P.E., Assistant Agency Director, Connected and Automated Vehicle Strategy, [email protected], (972) 994-2206
The University of Texas at Austin Center for Transportation Research: Dr. Chandra Bhat, Director, Center for Transportation Research, The University of Texas at Austin, [email protected], (512) 471-4535
Southwest Research Institute: Michael Brown, Engineer, [email protected]; (210) 522-3104
Texas Department of Transportation: Becky Ozuna, Media Relations, [email protected] or (512) 463-8700.