The Road to Driverless Vehicles
Leads to Virginia
Until recently, self-driving vehicles were only seen in futuristic science fiction films. Thanks to the groundbreaking research and testing taking place here in Virginia, what was once science fiction will soon become reality.
Take a look at the world of tomorrow!
Of the many autonomous vehicle technologies in development, self-driving cars will have the most visible effect on the daily lives of Virginia's citizens. In 2010, the average Washington, D.C. area driver lost 67 hours to traffic delays, the worst congestion in the United States. 2011 Census statistics show that residents of Prince William, Stafford, and Fauquier counties have average commute times at or over 40 minutes. Self-driving cars could address this problem, increasing safety on our roads as well as passenger comfort and productivity. Already, semi-autonomous functions in some newer car models are improving highway safety by automatically braking when approaching an obstacle, for example.
Self-driving cars will maintain more constant speeds and more predictable stops and starts, preventing many traffic jams. Self-driving cars could help tackle other problems, from enabling senior citizens to retain their independence, to helping our smaller communities provide mass transit. Self-driving cars have already captured the public's attention with prototypes being developed by many of the major car companies. Perhaps the best-known prototype is the Google car, which has logged more than 300,000 autonomous driving hours.
Conventional road vehicles, such as passenger cars and freight trucks, are by far the most common type of ground vehicle. However, other ground vehicles include tractors, mining and construction vehicles, and a wide variety of "niche" vehicles such as those used by the military and law enforcement for explosive ordnance disposal.
Other applications for autonomous ground vehicles include self-driving farm equipment and mining vehicles, and fleets of transport vehicles that cooperate to quickly transfer cargo in congested ports.
Virginia Automated Corridors
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation and the Dept. of Motor Vehicles have entered into a new partnership with the VTTI, Transurban and HERE- Nokia's mapping business to create the Virginia Automated Corridors. These corridors cover more than 70 miles of interstates and arterials in the Northern Virginia region and will provide car companies and suppliers of automated vehicles real-world environments they need prior to putting their vehicles on roadways.
The corridors integrate access to dedicated high-occupancy toll lanes, high-definition mapping capabilities, real-time traffic and incidents, intelligent routing, location cloud technology, pavement markings maintained by VDOT for completeness and retro-reflectivity, accurate localization via high-precision GPS systems, dedicated short-range communications and cellular technology, and sophisticated data acquisition systems. Collaboration between the VTTI Smart Road and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership is but one example of our ability to leverage and integrate our expertise across multiple modes of transportation and unmanned systems.
This driverless car was designed by the VTTI spin-off TORC Robotics. TORC Robotics is one of the leading autonomous vehicle companies in Virginia. TORC placed 3rd in the DARPA Urban Challenge out of 89 teams. (Image Credit: TORC Robotics)