Abundant Acreage for Autonomy

“We have visited virtually every other active safety and autonomous vehicle test facilities around the world, talked with dozens of customers, and are partnering with many others in the space so that we can best serve the needs of everyone regarding safer vehicle, safer drivers, and safer roads.” That’s Mark-Tami Hotta, CEO of the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, announcing that TRC is instituting Phase 1 of an expansion, a new 540-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center that will be configured within the TRC’s 4,500 acres.

“We have visited virtually every other active safety and autonomous vehicle test facilities around the world, talked with dozens of customers, and are partnering with many others in the space so that we can best serve the needs of everyone regarding safer vehicle, safer drivers, and safer roads.”

That’s Mark-Tami Hotta, CEO of the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, announcing that TRC is instituting Phase 1 of an expansion, a new 540-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center that will be configured within the TRC’s 4,500 acres.

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This facility will include what they’re calling “the industry’s largest high-speed intersection; the industry’s longest and most flexible test platform. . .and urban network of intersections, roundabouts, traffic signals; a rural network including wooded roads, neighborhood network. . . .”

A couple of points about this.

One is that it seems as though there is something of an autonomous land-boom going on.

The TRC announcement came yesterday. On Tuesday, there was this: “Texas has been designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) as a national Automated Vehicle (AV) Proving Ground for the testing of connected and automated vehicle technologies to solve community challenges, thanks to an alliance of public transportation agencies, a network of research institutions, and municipal governments throughout the state.”

Texas?

Of course, the self-driving devil is in the details, but the point is that the state of Texas is setting up a multitude of facilities that will permit the testing of automated vehicles.

The second point is that it almost seems as though it is something of a foregone conclusion that vehicles are coming. Sure, there is a multitude of OEMs and supplier companies that are all working on the vehicles and the technologies that help cars to become more automated.

But if you were to add up the entire fleet of autonomous vehicles that exist, I’m willing to bet that there are fewer than 500—far fewer—not only in the U.S., but on a global basis.

Yet more and more test facilities are coming.

And while not as large as the state of Texas, China has announced that it is going to be building the biggest experimental zone for autonomous driving in Zhangzhou: it will be in a 56-square kilometer zone. It will have a 600,000-square meter closed testing ground and a two-million square-meter open experimental field: that’s 143.3 acres and 492 acres. While those numbers are smaller than TRC’s, there’s that 56-square kilometer zone, 21.6-square miles.

You could probably lose all of the autonomous cars in the world somewhere in that space.