On-road tests of autonomous vehicles will begin on the Express Lanes as early as next year.
According to a release, the Commissioner of Highways has “agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Transurban, the operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes, to study how connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) may improve safety and mobility.”
The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the testing of the automated vehicles and automation technology on the Express Lanes, according to a release.
“As the pioneers of automated vehicle-to-roadway technologies, we are positioned to continue to lead the way in breakthrough research and conduct new testing that has the potential to drastically change the way we approach travel on the highways. Ultimately, it’s about benefiting America’s drivers by keeping them safe and easing their travels out on the road,” stated Acting Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Walter Waidelich in a release.
Development of the program is set to begin this month, and the on-road tests are slated to start around summer 2018.
More on the program, from a release:
The program will enable the partnership to perform research, and develop and trial demonstration tests on the Express Lanes to examine real-world applications for the developing technologies. Program development is scheduled to begin later this month with on-road tests beginning as soon as summer 2018.
The program partners will test electronics, information processing and communications technology to better understand the practical application of connected and autonomous vehicles in a real-world environment, with the ultimate goal to increase efficiency across road networks. The research will test:
- cooperative adaptive cruise control, that allows automated vehicles to safely follow each other in closer proximity;
- technology to seamlessly enable automated lane changing and merging into traffic; and
- speed harmonization, including direct vehicle interaction
“This is a new era for the Virginia Department of Transportation. We must do all we can to embrace the roadway needs of rapidly evolving automotive technology. This partnership will help answer critical questions as transportation agencies consider approaches to handling the current technology alterations and disruptions occurring with the transition to CAV,” stated Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in a release.
The Express Lanes are being considered an ideal testing space for the autonomous vehicles because of the new pavement, operations staff for the lanes, and the camera coverage.