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  January 2nd, 2017 | Written by

Texas Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership

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  • Automated vehicles are re-imagining personal and commercial mobility.
  • AVs have the potential to achieve safety, operational, and economic benefits.
  • The next five years will see more advancements in vehicle technology than the previous 50 years.

Cities and regions across Texas are partnering with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to form the Texas Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground Partnership. The statewide partnership will put Texas on the path to becoming the nation’s first state that aims to create a platform for innovation to address community challenges.

“There is no place better than Texas, with its favorable business climate and geographic diversity, to establish this new partnership among the state’s largest transportation research entities,” said Greg Winfree, TTI agency director. “The closed-course facilities and real-world urban and rural test sites we can offer, including land- and sea-port applications, and unmanned aircraft systems, provide a variety of environments where automated vehicle challenges can be tested and proven.”

The partnership builds on the momentum of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge, in which Austin, the capital of Texas, was a finalist.

“One of the challenges as we look forward into the future is that we are oftentimes looking through the lens of today and how the world operates today,” said James Bass, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation. “We know there is going to be change, we just don’t know what that change is going to be and how that is going to impact us. By having a broader group with different voices, we are able to see those things sooner than we would if we were just talking to ourselves.”

The realization of AVs is re-imagining personal and commercial mobility, and AVs have the potential to achieve significant safety, operational and economic benefits for all communities.

“In the next five years there are going to be more advancements in vehicle technology than there have been in the last 50 years,” said Jeff Williams, mayor of Arlington, Texas. “Think about the opportunity to have an automated people mover, lithium battery powered. It could run all day, charge through the night, use clean-energy, and be cheaper…It’s a new day of what the opportunities are because transformation is coming now.”

Members of the partnership are contributing their facilities, expertise and talents as part of a larger Texas network of proving grounds and test-bed sites. Proving grounds offer controlled environments on research campuses where the complete life-cycle development of AVs can be assessed and include the Texas A&M University System RELLIS Campus, which includes Texas A&M’s Proving Grounds, University of Texas at Austin Campus, and the SwRI Campus in San Antonio. Urban and freight test beds offer real-world environments where a variety of scenarios may be explored and will be located in Austin, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, and El Paso.

With five of the nation’s 15 fastest growing cities located in Texas and the state’s population expected to more than double by the year 2050, Texas seeks to manage this disruption proactively rather than allow rapid urbanization to stifle the state’s economy.

“Austin is now the Kitty Hawk of driverless vehicles because we are a creative and innovative city,” said Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin. “We should all be proud that a Texas city is where such a huge leap forward can take place, and I look forward to working together with other Texas cities so we can pioneer creative partnerships with other innovators.”

The Texas AV Proving Ground Partnership is also applying for USDOT designation as a national proving ground. The USDOT anticipates that the selection of the initial AV Proving Grounds will be completed during the first quarter of 2017. Designated facilities will open for testing by January 1, 2018.