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’s highway system.
TTI and TxDOT have 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 on the 80,000 miles (128,750km) of highway system that the agency is responsible for. 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, and other equipment on Texas highways, with the safety of drivers being the agency’s prime motivator. TxDOT sees the new MOU as formalizing the mutual intent to continue that spirit of innovation in the most ambitious new era in transportation.
Through the 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. 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’s RELLIS Campus (below), and will be ready for real-world testing in the near future.
In a related program, 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 Proving Ground Partnership at the end of December 2016. 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 testbed sites to advance CV/AV technologies.
“We are rapidly moving into a new world of transportation that will include cars communicating with other cars, and cars that drive themselves,” explained TxDOT’s executive director, James Bass. “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.”
TTI agency director and former US assistant transportation secretary, Greg Winfree, said, “This is a first but very important step for testing and proving out new CV/AV technologies. 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.”