Nearly 200 participants at the Fourth Annual Texas A&M Transportation Technology Conference learned the latest on connected and automated vehicle (CAV) research and deployment activities in Texas and the nation. The April 29–May 1 conference was organized by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), in partnership with The Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M Engineering, and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. Conference sponsors included 3M, Cisco, and HNTB at the maroon level, and Econolite, HDR, and Neology at the gold level.
“The annual Texas A&M Transportation Technology Conferences focus on highlighting current CAV and technology research under way throughout The Texas A&M University System and pilots, demonstrations and deployments in Texas and other states,” said Katie Turnbull, TTI executive associate director and conference planning chair, during the opening session. “Texas continues to be a leader in CAV research, policy development, testing and deployment.”
The conference began with two workshops, providing participants with deeper dives into low-speed autonomous shuttles and the use of blockchain technology in transportation. Speakers in the first workshop highlighted low-speed autonomous shuttle pilots in Frisco, Bryan-College Station and Houston, as well as Columbus, Ohio; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Gainesville, Fla. Speakers and participants discussed planning, vehicle and service procurement, implementation and operation, evaluation, and research associated with deploying autonomous shuttles. Speakers in a second workshop introduced blockchain technology fundamentals and use cases in transportation, including examples focusing on ports, tolling and smart contracts.
The opening session featured highlights of TTI research associated with wrong-way driving, smart intersections and smart work zones, as well as the Texas A&M University Civil Engineering Department’s involvement in the GM Challenge. Speakers from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Transportation, and DriveOhio provided updates on demonstrations and pilots under way at the state level.
Topics covered during the conference sessions focused on smart infrastructure and vehicles, user perspectives on technologies, automation in the trucking industry, safety, and pilots and deployments of different technologies. Numerous networking opportunities were provided, including talking with students and peers during a poster session.
“I found the conference to be enormously useful, both in terms of content and the wonderful network of people I was able to meet,” noted Jordon Coleman, general counsel with Kodiak Robotics, who spoke on the safety and CAVs panel. “The panel provided an excellent platform to further the safety dialogue among diverse stakeholders.”
The conference concluded with an optional tour of research projects and facilities at the A&M System’s RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M Technology Advisory Council also met during the conference.
It was just 36 months ago, at the first Transportation Technology Conference, that the RELLIS Campus initiative was announced by A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. His vision of converting a 2,000-acre former U.S. Army air field into a premier campus that focuses on developing advanced engineering and educational resources is coming to fruition in record time.
“It’s only been three years, but the progress has been amazing to watch,” TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree told conference attendees. “The commitment from the A&M System, the chancellor and the Board of Regents has been impressive.”
The accelerated construction of several world-class facilities at RELLIS includes the $80 million, 138,000-square-foot Center for Infrastructure Renewal and TTI’s own 180,000-square-foot state headquarters. Beyond buildings, groundbreaking public-private partnerships have also been established, creating new opportunities for collaboration across sector lines.