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Tolling Points

Florida Automated Vehicle Summit Electrifies Participants

By: 
Bill Cramer

Two weeks ago, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority hosted the 7th Annual Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, a two-day event organized by several other IBTTA members – Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, Central Florida Expressway Authority, and Jacksonville Transportation Authority – as well as non-member Center for Urban Transportation Research. The event gathered more than 730 people, all with an intense interest in advancing connected, automated, shared and electric vehicles.

The Summit opened with Governor Ron DeSantis stating that Florida is open to innovation and fully embracing emerging technology, not only in transportation but in finance and other fields. Florida will focus on innovative technologies to increase safety, ease congestion, provide more transit and deliver more first- and last-mile solutions, all in a sustainable way. In 2019, the Florida legislature passed measures to support innovations in autonomous vehicles and small cell technology, and to prepare for future growth with important infrastructure policy. Florida is expected to be home to 25 million residents by 2030.

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault spoke about Florida’s SunTrax. Created several years ago, SunTrax provides a proving and testing ground for all things new relating to transportation. Thibault cast the facility as just one example of how the state is welcoming businesses and encouraging new ventures and partnerships to prepare for safe, efficient automated and connected vehicles and technology for its roadways.

“Plug-in cars are our future,” Thibault proclaimed. And to encourage the use of electric vehicles, Florida’s Turnpike with be installing fast charging stations at all service plazas.

Also present were more than 30 organizations exhibiting and demonstrating their products and services, including JUMP, Connected Wise, Beep, Luminar, University of South Florida, and SAE International, to name a few, plus state and local governmental agencies. One that impressed me the most was Starsky Robotics, a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous truck technology.

On June 16, 2019, Starsky drove one of its driverless semi-trucks 9.4 miles alongside live traffic on Florida’s Turnpike, using both remote and automated technologies to accomplish the trial. You can watch the trip here. The photo at the top is of me sitting in the semi.

Starsky CEO and Co-Founder Stefan Seltz-Axmacher likens the future truck driver to an airline pilot: The truck drives itself, with a driver needed at the beginning and end of trips. He sees the job becoming easier, and therefore easier to recruit for, since drivers will no longer have to travel hundreds of miles from their homes and families.

Over the two days, a wide range of expert speakers covered topics on operations, law, infrastructure, functional design, cybersecurity, ethics, aftermarket products, enabling technologies, and public policy. The takeaway: While there are many standards to be met, many tests to be run, many policies to be agreed upon and implemented, many minds to educate -- technology is driving the future of mobility, and it is here today. Incremental steps are happening all around us, and we will encounter more and more with each passing day.

Don’t forget IBTTA’s Technology Summit, drawing tolling and transportation experts from around the globe to San Diego, California, April 2-4, 2020.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 12:30

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