Construction is ahead of schedule at a new test track being built for driverless vehicles in Polk County.
- SunTrax facility near I-4, Polk Parkway
- Facility will test new toll technology at highway speeds
- Oval track is 2.25 miles
The $90 million SunTrax facility, located near I-4 and Polk Parkway, will also be a testing ground for new toll technology.
SunTrax Program Manager Paul Satchfield said the oval track is 2.25 miles, nearly the size of the Daytona International Speedway. It sits on 400 acres, making it possible to test the new toll technology at highway speeds.
“I don’t believe there’s another facility for tolls testing like this in the country,” said Satchfield.
While the latest toll technology will be tested on the track, the infield will become a simulated city, where self-driving cars will ride around on the roads and some of them will even be able to communicate with each other, according to Satchfield.
“You’ll be able to take your car through a simulation where you’re on the highway, you’ll exit the highway, you’ll drive through a suburban area, you’ll get to a downtown, you’ll be able to do that all in one facility,” said Satchfield.
Some experts predict autonomous vehicles will make up the majority of cars sold by 2035. With safety being a concern, it’s the reason the Florida Department of Transportation is building the testing facility now.
Satchfield said the hope is SunTrax will lead to Florida becoming the hub for developing self-driving cars.
“You’re not going to relocate GM here, but you might relocate some of the smaller companies that build the sensors that build a specific component, they could come here and say this is where we want to be we want to be near where we can test our equipment,” Satchfield explained.
The design for the infield is just starting now. Satchfield said the oval track will be finished as early as the spring of 2019. The rest will be built in phases, with construction projected to be complete in three to four years.