December 6, 2018

Florida nears opening date for autonomous vehicle test track

Florida nears opening date for autonomous vehicle test track

$42 million Suntrax site to open in Spring 2019, reach completion in 2021.

By DC Velocity Staff

As autonomous vehicle technology advances quickly toward general use, researchers in Florida are nearly finished developing a test track where engineers can safely unleash those driverless cars, business leaders said Nov. 30.

In an announcement at the Florida Autonomous Vehicle Summit, developers released the latest sketches of the planned, 2.25-mile-long, "SunTrax" test track set on a 475-acre plot in the state's Polk County, midway between Orlando and Tampa.

The $42 million oval track represents a long-term partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, and Florida Polytechnic University.

The Florida track will be the latest site designed for unmanned car testing. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation designated 10 "proving ground pilot sites" including the Michigan Technical Resource Park, in Ottawa Lake, Mich., and GoMentum Station in Concord, Calif.

Slated to be complete by spring 2021, Florida's Suntrax facility will be available for preliminary rental use next spring, offering what officials call the only high-speed autonomous vehicle testing facility in the southeastern U.S.

Visitors testing their experimental cars on the site will be able to choose from various environments on the 200-acre infield area, including:

  • An urban area that simulates intersection configurations and complex lighting, signing, and signal conditions,
  • A roadway geometry track made up of complex horizontal and vertical curves, plus irregular grade changes,
  • A pick-up/drop-off area to replicate various multi-modal passenger transfers, such as transit centers, and
  • An augmented reality pad to create immersive, computer-generated environments. 

The design is intended to challenge autonomous vehicles by requiring them to navigate obstacles like: an urban area with shipping containers used to replicate buildings, a suburban area, and an airport pick up/drop off area, officials said.

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