Autonomous vehicles are fast becoming a reality. Today, features like lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control are becoming increasingly popular. According to a recent research, by 2030 15% of vehicles sold will be fully autonomous, offering passengers a smooth and comfortable driverless experience. With the automotive world moving to a driverless dimension, the role of data connectivity systems, sensor solutions, and antennas is becoming of paramount importance. These tools sense the environment within and outside the autonomous vehicle; they receive the data and transmit them in real time to the vehicle’s devices and the external world.
But the presence of autonomous vehicles in urban environments such as highly populated cities can be dangerous if these places do not possess the right high-tech infrastructures to make the driverless experience as safe as possible.
Indeed, classic road signs, though effective with human drivers, have proved to be dangerous when self-driving vehicles are on the road. For instance, a few months ago, some researchers confused the cruise control feature of a Tesla vehicle. Using only a two-inch piece of black tape, they changed a speed limit road sign from 35 to 85 miles per hour; that was enough to trick the Tesla into autonomously accelerating to 50 miles per hour.
Adopting sensors and data connectors that are able to communicate parking rules, speed limits, and traffic variances in urban areas is thus critical to reduce accidents and improve automotive safety when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Smart cities appear to be the perfect testbeds for such technologies since they already incorporate smart devices that somehow improve mobility. Orlando is a good example of such cities. A few years ago, the Floridian smart city was chosen as a proving ground for autonomous vehicles projects.
Orlando as a proving ground for autonomous vehicles
Orlando is an ideal location to develop and test autonomous vehicles. Indeed, the city is one of the first places to be designated a national AV proving ground. This achievement was possible for several reasons. First of all, Orlando has a very friendly AV legislation which permits the testing and operating of AVs on public roads with or without a human driver. Secondly, the city boasts several competencies in simulation, aviation, aerospace, defence, and the presence of specialized research institutions, such as the Florida Polytechnic Institute and the University of Central Florida.
The first efforts to establish the Orlando area as a global hub for AV innovation started around 2011. That year, the Florida Department of Transportation designated the I-4 corridor, (an interstate highway that runs through Orlando from Tampa to Daytona Beach) as a test bed for AV. One year later, the Florida Automated Vehicles (FAV) program was established and the City of Orlando joined the program as a partner. The FAV program aims to lead Florida in developing best safety practices and promoting awareness for AVs.
Since then, Orlando has attracted several autonomous vehicles technology companies. One example is Beep, a company that provides autonomous electric mobility solutions that enables a safe and eco-friendly driverless mobility. Currently, the company has a solid presence in Lake Nona, a smart community within the Orlando area. There, Beep has created a large autonomous vehicle network which includes five routes and eight shuttles.
Smart cities such as Orlando showcase the value of connected technology to improve society at all levels, and autonomous mobility significantly contributes to that value.