Automated car is driving around campus as engineers study its effects

Illustration of automated cars on a city street

Image: Dwight Look College of Engineering

Fully automated vehicles should hit the nation’s roads as early as 2018, but an automated research car is cruising the Texas A&M University campus today.

The Zachry Department of Civil Engineering is using the car to study interactions between regular vehicles, connected vehicles, automated vehicles and pedestrians, as well as effects on congestion, safety, emissions and energy consumption.

“There will be a wealth of possible changes to foresee and acclimate ourselves to before automated vehicles can fully integrate,” Alireza Talebpour, an assistant professor, said.

Department Head Robin Autenrieth agreed. “How people move in the built environment has determined the design and orientation of buildings, roadways and most of urban and suburban developments,”’ Autenrieth said. “With the introduction of automated and connected vehicles, there could be significant change to the infrastructure beyond the obvious.”

For example, automated vehicles may follow other vehicles more closely at distances that are unsafe for manned vehicles. Less congestion will reduce travel costs, which in turn may increase the number of travelers and affect how long roads and bridges will last

A major part of the research will focus on pattern recognition and data visualization, collected on campus. This should help to reveal the underlying behavioral patterns necessary for equipping automated vehicles to work safely and efficiently.

The Sterling Auto Group in Bryan donated the car to the research team. The Texas A&M University System and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station provided start-up funding.

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