GETTING THERE: Autonomous vehicles in Tampa Bay

By Chuck Henson, Real Time Traffic Expert
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 07, 2018, 5:13 PM EST

Every day, more and more cars become less and less reliant on the person behind the wheel.

Transportation researchers can see a time soon when getting there won't require any input from you other than telling your car where you want to go.

Real Time Traffic Expert Chuck Henson sat down with experts in the field of autonomous vehicles to take a snapshot of Tampa Bay in the next decade, as self-driving and connected cars become more prevalent on our roads.

Dave McNamara helps the auto industry put automated products in their vehicles after they've left the showroom. He talked about two main things driving a move toward autonomy.

"Connectivity. The ability to have robust connections everywhere," he said. "And then also I would say control algorithms. The ability to control cars and to keep cars on the road, and have robots drive."

It's connectivity that is driving a study in Tampa right now on the Selmon Expressway. Enrolled drivers get equipment in their car that can communicate with other study vehicles.

Your car will know if someone has stalled in front of you, or where the next traffic jam is.

Experts say as many as 20 to 30 percent more cars are going to end up on Tampa Bay interstates as a result of autonomous vehicles, but with an overall lower impact to the environment.

Sisinno Concas with the Center for Urban Transportation Research says, even with more cars on the road, there won't be a negative impact to the environment.

"Then you could have mobility savings and therefore also emission reduction," he said. "And you can couple that with technology in terms of the type of fuel that powers that type of vehicle."

When it comes to self-driving cars, they can use more narrow lanes, passing within three to four inches of each other.

Narrow traffic lanes allow for the addition of other transportation options, like rapid transit or bike lanes, without making our roads any wider than they are today.

The Tampa Connected Vehicle pilot project is still accepting study participants.