Beyond If Beyond If

How Florida is Accelerating the Future of Smart Vehicles

What if we showed you how Jacobs and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise got their hands on the wheel of revolutionary automated, connected vehicle technologies with a new, nationally-recognized proving ground?

SunTrax promotional image

First hitting TV screens in the 1960s, The Jetsons captured the attention of American children for decades with its animated look at the future complete with robots, holograms and flying cars – and until recently, these technologies seemed about as far-fetched as one of the program’s 30-minute episodes.

While envisioning zooming through your commute in a self-driving vehicle might still feel like something straight out of Orbit City, one in three Americans believe that a driverless city – with cars and public transportation operating autonomously – will be reality within the next 10 years, according to a study from Intel.

Self-driving vehicles have certainly been in overdrive during past few years – with Google spinoff Waymo starting its commercial self-driving car service in Phoenix suburbs in late 2018 and Anheuser-Busch and tech company Otto conducting the world’s first commercial shipment by an autonomous vehicle (a 2016 shipment of Budweiser beer across more than 132-miles that holds the Guinness World Record for “longest continuous journey by a driverless and autonomous lorry). Yet, there’s quite a long road ahead for the emerging technology before these vehicles become a regular part of society.

But what if we showed you how Jacobs and a group of Florida organizations are accelerating the future of transportation with a continuously evolving, internationally recognized center for the development of automated driving systems?

  • 200

    acre infield for testing emerging technologies in various simulated scenarios to maximize performance, safety and more

  • 2.25

    mile oval track for high-speed testing of autonomous, connected vehicles

Where the rubber meets the road

Since 2012, the State of Florida has supported and furthered the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads, expanding its legislation to allow autonomous vehicles with no human driver in 2016. But not all manufacturers were ready to shift gears into public testing, so Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) – a District within the Florida Department of Transportation – and one of its partners, Florida Polytechnic University, set out to create a test facility giving suppliers a more-controlled environment to drive the technology forward, and they engaged Jacobs as principal master planner.

The facility, when complete will include a 2.25-mile oval track (construction for this phase will be complete in mid-2019) on a 475-acre site and will test self-driving vehicles in simulated situations such as rain, fog and smoke. As master planner, Jacobs is developing the layout for 200+/- -acre infield area of the SunTrax facility that includes integrated services, complex road network design and architecture from concepts through construction documents.

The $150 million development for the infield includes a wide variety of scenario testing for automated and connected vehicle technology and focuses on 11 separate proving circuits with multiple urban and suburban intersection conditions, such as the following according to FTE:

  • An urban environment where chaotic and difficult to navigate combinations of signing, pavement markings, on-street parking and both vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be simulated.
  • A large and complex signalized suburban intersection with more than 150 potential movement conflict points and a large re-configurable roundabout.
  • A pick-up and drop-off area with situations similar to what might be encountered at airports, multi-modal hubs and other curb-side city settings.

The infield will also include an observation tower, multi-bay garages, an administration building with event space, labs, a dynamic terrain course, an 800-foot-long environmental sensory chamber with controlled weather effects and a 20-acre open pad area geared towards the development and testing of segmented reality simulation (AVR) testing for vehicles and sensors.

A smoother journey for the future

Part of the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partnership, SunTrax was selected in 2016 as one of ten federally designated U.S. proving grounds for autonomous and connected vehicles, aimed at sharing information on technologies and testing scenarios.

Safety is a top concern for FTE and its partners and a focus at SunTrax, where testing will help develop the technology as an answer to reduce the number of road accidents. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 94% of serious crashes are due to human error. Removing human error from the crash equation would help protect more than 35,000 people who die each year in motor vehicle-related crashes.

Development of the technology to the fullest, at proving grounds like SunTrax, will also help unlock other autonomous vehicle benefits such as improving access to healthcare, job opportunities and social interaction for those in need and increasing mobility and maximizing efficiency of traffic flow.

Want to read more? Check out the article in the Orlando Business Journal

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