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Self-driving trucks are back testing on the Selmon Expressway

Self-driving trucks are back testing on the Selmon Expressway through Wednesday. The photo shows an autonomous car driving along a closed section of the Selmon Expressway last year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published May 14

TAMPA — Automated truck testing will be happening on the elevated reversible lanes of the Selmon Expressway through Wednesday, closing traffic on the road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

The self-driving trucks will be tested by Starsky Robotics, which says it will still have a human behind the wheel as a safety precaution, according to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority. The self-driving software in the trucks will control its acceleration, braking and steering.

Driverless vehicle testing on the expressway is nothing new — the road first hosted self-driving vehicles in 2014 when Audi tested driverless cars. At the time, the location was still one of just 10 approved sites nationwide where researchers could study the safety and performance of automated vehicles.

A year later, Tampa became one of four cities nationwide to receive a $2.4 million federal contract to test next-generation driverless car technology that could also be used to bring immediate relief to Tampa Bay's traffic woes.

The federal contract — the first installment in a three-stage process that could total more than $17 million — was put into place with hopes to one day improve traffic flow.

"We're bringing transportation into the 21st century," then-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said at the time. "And oh, by the way, Tampa is at the center of it all."

RELATED: Tampa drivers lost 87 hours — plus $1,200 each — because of traffic last year

More recently, Florida lawmakers awarded $2.5 million to the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority in May. The allocation included $1 million to study emerging transportation trends such as autonomous vehicles and Hyperloop technology, a concept developed by Elon Musk that involves low-pressured capsules designed to zip through tubes at about 700 mph.

Normal traffic operations are set to resume Thursday on the Selmon Expressway.

Contact Josh Fiallo at jfiallo@tampabay.com. Follow @ByJoshFiallo.

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