After nearly two years of planning, design and testing, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is now recruiting volunteer drivers and pedestrians for the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot in Florida.
The US$21m Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot aims to demonstrate the safety, mobility and environmental benefits of connected vehicles (CVs), and is one of the three sites deploying the technology as part of the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program.
The other two sites are New York City and the Interstate 80 aorridor in Wyoming, however, the Tampa project is the only one that involves local residents driving their own cars. THEA expects to equip approximately 1,600 privately owned automobiles with CV technology by May 2018, with participating drivers receiving a 30% toll rebate on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Reversible Express Lanes (REL).
Volunteers’ cars will be outfitted with devices that communicate with other vehicles and roadside infrastructure (V2X), such as traffic and pedestrian signals, to enhance safety, improve traffic flow, and reduce emissions. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will also equip 10 buses and 10 TECO Line streetcars with the technology. Volunteers will experience the benefits of CV technology in a number of ways, such as:
• Receiving a warning when cars on the road ahead have suddenly slowed down or come to a stop, when commuting on the REL;
• Getting an in-vehicle alert if they attempt to enter the downtown end of the REL in the wrong direction, with other drivers on the REL also warned of the danger;
• Advance warnings if a pedestrian is present in the midblock crosswalk on Twiggs Street at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.
As the Pilot is a research project, drivers must meet certain criteria to participate: they must be 18 years of age or older, have a Florida driver’s license, own a car that is a 1996 model or newer, and drive regularly on the REL or in the downtown deployment area. Qualified technicians will install the free equipment and conduct training, with the pilot due to run until December 2019.
Pedestrians will also be able to participate in the pilot by installing a free smartphone application. The app, which is expected to be available in February 2018, will enable pedestrians to request a ‘walk’ signal at several intersections on Meridian Avenue. On some downtown streets, it will also issue an audible alert if a bus or streetcar is starting to move nearby.