Connected vehicles are soon to be a reality in downtown Tampa
Downtown Tampa is about to get a whole lot safer, thanks to $2.4 million in federal funding that the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority landed for a connected-vehicle program.
Tampa is one of three cities awarded funding through that federal contract, announced last month. The contract provided funds to study how connected-vehicle technologies could enhance road safety, improve commute times and make life generally a little easier.
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Planning Director Bob Frey explained to a group of about 60 community members at a presentation hosted by the Tampa Downtown Partnership Tuesday morning how the agency landed the competitive contract. Nearly 40 agencies nationwide applied for the federal funds that were eventually awarded to Tampa, Wyoming and New York City.
Each contract focuses on a different problem connected-vehicle technology could solve: Wyoming will look at moving freight in an efficient and safe manner; New York plans on linking as many as 10,000 city-owned fleet vehicles, such as limos and buses, through vehicle-to-vehicle technology; Tampa aims to lessen congestion downtown and also improve pedestrian safety by linking smartphones and vehicles.
While the technology has many applications which are still being explored, in its most basic form, it allows technology on the roads -- cars, traffic lights, smart phones -- to communicate with each other. The equipment would make cars "smarter," allowing them to respond to changes in conditions. This technology is what makes driverless cars possible.
Ann Arbor was the first city to join the pilot program in 2012 when the DOT equipped about 3,000 cars, trucks and buses with technology to "talk" to each other, allowing them to avoid crashes and improve traffic flow.
Tampa is still in the first phase of the project, for which the U.S. Department of Transportation provided $2.4 million in funding for THEA to put together a concept and deployment plan over the next year. The next step, which should span 20 months and includes $13.5 million in funding, will focus on deploying the technology. That means people downtown can expect to see some of these changes in place in the next year or two.