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2017-07-17 09:37:34

Rain, ramps, roadways: Here's how the new SunTrax will test autonomous vehicles by 

Looks like the 2.25-mile, oval track in Polk County designed for high-speed travel in an urban environment will give the self-driving cars a challenging ride by using different types of roadways and events to test their reaction time.

SunTrax is being built on a 400-acre site and is expected to take roughly two years to build out. It will have an urban core that reflects a typical downtown environment with parking garages, structures and pedestrians.

In taking a closer look at the renderings of the SunTrax facility (which can be seen in the gallery), the different features that will test the vehicles in certain situations include:

  • Rainfall simulations, where vehicles will have to deal with a severe heavy rainfall-simulated environment
  • Three-level interchange bridges and tunnels to test GPS connectivity
  • Intersections, roundabouts and highway ramp terminals
  • A parking garage for both employees and testing
  • Toll gantries to test different tolling equipment as well as smartphone-based payment technologies
  • Simulated school crossings and unmarked driveways
  • Multiple roadway surfaces such as dirt, cobblestone and/or gravel

Not only can the SunTrax track test autonomous passenger vehicles such as sedans, but it will also test connected truck platooning in the high-speed sections. (Truck platooning is where multiple trucks are coupled together and communicate wirelessly, which can result in benefits such as reduced fuel consumption, reduced congestion and increased highway capacity.)

The renderings also reveal ponds on the property for the testing of storm water systems and unmanned/automated watercraft.There’s even automated freight and container movement testing.

The construction of the SunTrax facility comes after Central Florida was chosen as one of the nation’s 10 premier clusters for the research and development of automated vehicle technology across all modes of travel this year.

The competitive designation was awarded to the Central Florida Autonomous Vehicle Partnership that includes the Florida Department of Transportation’sFlorida Turnpike Enterprise and Florida Polytechnic University, NASA, the University of Central Florida, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Lynx and others.

SunTrax is expected to open in the first quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile, take an interactive tour of the facility here.

Brezina covers economic development.
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