Driverless car test takes over part of Selmon Expressway

By Chuck Henson, Real Time Traffic Expert
Last Updated: Monday, July 28, 2014, 3:14 PM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott took the first ride.

The Audi Connect program of driverless cars made its way to Tampa Monday for testing. The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway's reversible lanes are closed for testing of the driverless cars.

Or more specifically, the testing will be for using pilotless vehicle controls during traffic congestion. The control is more driver-assisted than completely driverless.

Researchers with the Center for Urban Transportation and Research say these driverless cars could also cut down on traffic jams and accidents in the future. The Audi A-7s are equipped with 22 sensors to detect other vehicles in front of and behind the car.

The Hillsborough Expressway Authority is behind the movement. Florida is one of only a handful of states that allows testing on existing highways. Years of research and planning paid off when Audi's AUDI Connect program contacted the expressway authority about the testing.

The expressway, which connects downtown Tampa to Brandon, is an approved testing site where researchers can study the safety and performance of automated vehicles.  

"We need to connect the cars to the infrastructure," said Joe Waggoner, executive director of the expressway authority. "Technology is in the cars. Now it needs to be connected to the infrastructure. The technology is going to create safety improvements, it's going to save lives. When the technologies are connected, the results will be even better."

The testing was conducted until 3 p.m.