Tampa approved for driverless car testing

8:31 AM, Feb 9, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Cars that will change the world could be cruising through your neighborhood soon -- and there will be no one holding the steering wheel.

Tampa Bay is about to become a leader in America for cars that keep you from crashing and make your life better.

The Selmon Expressway just got a big approval from the federal government. It's now one of only ten roads in America set up to test "connected cars," leading to totally driverless cars.

The Selmon's elevated express lanes to Brandon are a car designer's dream. During traffic downtimes, engineers can block off all of the entrances and have the whole highway as a ten-mile-long laboratory.

The expressway authority that runs the Selmon will team up with a USF group, the Center for Urban Transportation Research, to find companies that want to come here to test their technology.

The first tests will study how connected cars can wirelessly "talk" to each other and to sensors along the road, sharing their speed and location ten times a second.

Then, eventually, they'll see cars with no one behind the wheel.

Having a robot car means more than just being able to read a book while you're on the road. Six million crashes a year in the United States would drop down to just a handful. Almost five billion hours a year lost by drivers in traffic jams would all be reclaimed, fixed by smart cars.

Your whole neighborhood would change, since parking lots would vanish from in front of stores. Your car will just drop you off and park down around the corner.

And it's research done in Tampa Bay that will lead the way.

Driverless vehicles won't just appear overnight on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. They're in the first stage, getting partners for testing. But these hands-free automated cars are coming. Nissan says they're committed to selling a car that you don't have to drive by 2020.

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