On Monday, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) hosted its first public demonstration of the technology it plans to deploy as part of the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot, a research project that has the potential to change the way people walk and drive in downtown Tampa and beyond.
Attendees were able to ride in cars equipped with devices that “talk” to the roadway and other connected vehicles to help prevent crashes.
THEA plans to equip approximately 1,600 privately owned automobiles with connected vehicle technology by mid-2018. Volunteers’ automobiles will be equipped to communicate with downtown traffic and pedestrian signals to enhance safety, improve traffic flow and even reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will also equip 10 buses and 10 TECO Line streetcars with this technology.
THEA is now recruiting volunteer drivers and pedestrians for the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot. As an incentive, participating drivers will receive a 30 percent toll rebate on the REL, up to a maximum of $550.
Volunteers may experience the benefits of connected vehicle technology in a number of ways. For example:
• Participating drivers commuting on the REL will receive a warning when cars on the road ahead have suddenly slowed down or come to a stop.
• Participating drivers who attempt to enter the downtown end of the REL in the wrong direction will receive an alert, and other drivers on the REL will be warned of the danger.
• Participating drivers approaching the midblock crosswalk on Twiggs Street at the Hillsborough County Courthouse will receive an alert if a pedestrian is present in the crosswalk.
Because the pilot is a research project, drivers must meet certain criteria in order to participate. For example, 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. Tampa area residents who are interested in participating are encouraged to take the online prescreening questionnaire at www.TampaCVpilot.com to determine whether they are eligible.
After confirming their eligibility, prospective participants will schedule an appointment for equipment installation and training. Qualified technicians will install the equipment by appointment at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus Training Center beginning in early 2018. The pilot will conclude in October 2019.
Pedestrians will be able to participate in the pilot by installing an app on their smartphones. The app, which is expected to be available for download in the spring of 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.
The Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot aims to demonstrate the safety, mobility and environmental benefits of connected vehicle technology. Tampa is one of just three sites deploying the technology as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program. The other two sites are New York City and the Interstate 80 corridor in the state of Wyoming. The Tampa project is the only one that involves local residents driving their own cars.
THEA’s partners on the $21 million project include the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Tampa, HART, University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, Hillsborough Community College, HNTB Corporation, Siemens, Brandmotion and Global-5 Communications. The equipment suppliers are Commsignia, Savari and SiriusXM.