A framework is now in place between the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to begin testing connected and automated vehicle (CV/AV) technologies on the state highway system.
TTI and TxDOT recently co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), spelling out the guidelines that would allow TTI to test lab-proven technologies in a real-world environment.
“We are rapidly moving into a new world of transportation that will include cars communicating with other cars and cars that drive themselves,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “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 (DMV) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to make sure those technologies are tested in the safest possible ways.”
TxDOT is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of 80,000 miles of Texas’ highway system. The safety of all motorists is the deciding factor in everything TxDOT does. Over the last 60 years, TxDOT, TTI and other state universities have jointly developed, tested and implemented scores of improvements to pavements, safety devices, signs – everything on Texas highways – giving Texas the most respected network in the country. This new MOU formalizes the mutual intent to continue that spirit of innovation in the most ambitious new era in transportation.
Through this MOU, TTI can propose testing of its own technology applications or technologies from industry and other universities. TTI will develop 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. The plan will also describe how the tests can be safely demonstrated and piloted on Texas highways.
“This is a first but very important step for testing and proving out new CV/AV technologies,” said TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree of the MOU. “TxDOT is a vital partner in all of the work we do, so it is great news that this testing framework is in place so that Texas is well-positioned to take advantage of the safety and mobility benefits that connected and automated vehicles will offer.”
The first agreement between TxDOT and TTI to begin testing on a state roadway could happen soon. Five separate TxDOT research projects are being evaluated at TTI’s Proving Ground at the Texas A&M University System RELLIS Campus, and will be ready for real-world testing in the near future.
“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.”
On a related note, TTI, the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and cities across Texas formed the Texas Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground Partnership in December. This partnership builds upon the recent Texas Mobility Summit hosted by TxDOT. Members of the Partnership are contributing their facilities, expertise and staff as part of a larger Texas network of proving grounds and test-bed sites to advance CV/AV technologies.