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Driverless cars coming to Arlington streets — for research

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What's it like to ride in a driverless car? Google's Autonomous Car Team explains the features on a test ride with Sacramento Bee transportation writer Tony Bizjak. Credit: Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee
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What's it like to ride in a driverless car? Google's Autonomous Car Team explains the features on a test ride with Sacramento Bee transportation writer Tony Bizjak. Credit: Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee

Driverless cars may soon be on the streets in Arlington.

Arlington was among five areas in Texas selected last week by the U.S. Transportation Department as a “national Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground,” according to a press release issued Tuesday by Texas A&M University.

That means cars with no driver behind the wheel — or perhaps a researcher sitting in the driver’s seat, in case he or she needs to take over manual control of the vehicle — could soon be spotted on city streets.

“This partnership puts Texas at the forefront of automated vehicle technologies that likely will shape the future of transportation around the world,” Texas Department of Transportation Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams said in a statement.

The Texas partnership in driverless vehicle research includes the state transportation department, Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute, the University of Texas at Austin Center for Transportation Research, Southwest Research Institute and many other cities and regional agencies.

But not all the work will be in Arlington. Several cities in the state’s largest metro areas — including Austin, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso — will play a role in the research.

“This partnership is a winning team of state and local agencies, university transportation research institutes and industry that will help move Texas to the forefront in research and testing of connected and automated vehicles,” said Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System.

The idea involves giving researchers real-world environments to test “intelligent” cars. In North Texas, the plan includes allowing the driverless cars to be operated on the University of Texas at Arlington campus, other city streets, Interstate 30 and I-30’s managed lanes.

The Texas pitch for automated vehicle — or AV — research was among 10 research proposals selected nationwide from among about 60 applicants.

In Austin, the cars will be allowed near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Riverside Drive corridor. In Houston, the research involves the Texas Medical Center, high-occupancy vehicle lanes and the Port of Houston.

In San Antonio, testing will be along the Fredericksburg Road/Medical Drive corridor and the bus rapid transit system. In El Paso, the project is centered on the Tornillo/Guadalupe Port of Entry, according to a press release.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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