UF Partners with FDOT and the City of Gainesville to Plan Testbed for Advanced Transportation Technologies

The University of Florida (UF) and its Transportation Institute (UFTI), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the City of Gainesville (CoG) are gearing up to create a “smart testbed” on the UF campus and surrounding highway network. FDOT has funded this effort, which will review the literature and other testbed applications around the world, and develop a roadmap for implementation and operation of the testbed based on Florida’s priorities.

The testbed will be established to deploy and evaluate numerous advanced technologies (such as connected and autonomous vehicles, smart devices, and sensors) and develop novel applications for their use. These technologies and their application will work within the existing transportation network and will accommodate the presence of conventional vehicles.  It is envisioned that industry partnerships will be formed to facilitate the development and operation of the testbed.  The main goals of the testbed are to improve mobility and safety on campus and around Gainesville; to facilitate the development and implementation of advanced technologies invented at UF; to quantify the minimum criteria for operators to safely engage with automated vehicles; to foster collaboration with industry wishing to test and further enhance their own technologies; and to become a model nationally and internationally for the use of advanced technologies to enhance transportation.

This testbed will be the first of its kind in Florida to involve a university, a city, and state DOT. This initiative aligns well with the UF Strategic Development Plan, which aims to provide a better connection between the city and the university and turn Gainesville into a proving ground for solutions to challenges facing cities nationwide.   For additional information on UF’s Strategic Development Plan see: www.strategicdevelopment.ufl.edu. UFTI researchers  are currently developing  a plan to outline a series of  projects and applications associated with the testbed. The plan will be rolled out by July 2017. Dr. Lily Elefteriadou, a professor in the Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering and the director of the UFTI, is the lead researcher on this project.

“We are very excited to be working with our long time partners, FDOT and the City of Gainesville, as well as the UF administration in the development and use of advanced technologies on our campus. UF is an ideal location for such testing, as speeds are relatively low, there are lots of pedestrians, extensive bicycle facilities, scooters and mopeds, and one of the most heavily-used transit systems in Florida,” Dr. Elefteriadou said.

UF currently has an autonomous vehicle called the NaviGATOR, which is a hybrid Toyota Highlander that has been computerized and instrumented with GPS and sensors (vision and ladar). It is operated by the Center for Intelligent Machines & Robots in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE). Dr. Carl Crane, a professor in MAE heads the Center.  The research team will be conducting several tests with this vehicle to test its impact on operations. Although the vehicle is self-driving, researchers will be riding along the entire time, ready to take over at any moment.

Autonomous vehicles, connected to smart devices and sensors, are no longer a thing of the future. As these cars are rolled out onto our streets, it is essential to understand and conduct research into how these vehicles will relate to pedestrians, bicyclists, regular vehicles, traffic lights and flow, and more.

It is expected that these technologies will decrease the number of crashes and pollution on our roads.  Mobility will be increased for the elderly, the disabled, and the young, improving the way traffic flows.  Autonomous vehicles will optimize the use of our travel time by allowing passengers to conduct activities that would otherwise not be permissible while physically driving a car.

For more information, contact Dr. Lily Elefteriadou at elefter@ce.ufl.edu.