"Connected" vehicles are not the same thing as "Autonomous" vehicles, or self-driving cars.
Instead, these are vehicles that communicate, wirelessly via the internet, with other similarly-equipped vehicles, as well as with downtown traffic and pedestrian signals, to enhance safety, improve traffic flow, and even reduce greenhouse gas use.
How does it do all that?
By having your vehicle, and other vehicles, tell traffic and pedestrian signals downtown that you are on the way, the signal system will be able to time the lights to maximize traffic flow and efficiency.
Similarly, by letting your vehicle, and other vehicles, know that there are pedestrians in the way of your route, you might be notified of this in advance, and traffic signals may take this into account as well.
The technology will also allow your vehicle to be notified if other drivers ahead or around you have slowed or stopped and can message you in real-time, potentially easing traffic jams and preventing more crashes.
The technology can also warn motorists when a car is traveling the wrong way.
THEA is now equipping approximately 1,600 privately-owned automobiles with this connected vehicle technology as part of the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot program.
THEA hopes people will volunteer their vehicles to be part of this program. As an incentive, participating drivers will receive a 30% toll rebate on the Express Lanes, up to a maximum of $550. Area residents who are interested in participating are encouraged to take the online prescreening questionnaire at www.TampaCVpilot.com to see if they are eligible.
Not all vehicles will be able to adopt this technology, which involves installing a roof-mounted antenna to the car.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will also equip 10 buses and 10 TECO Line streetcars with the technology.
The show-and-tell today in Tampa is for transportation officials from all over the country to see how the technology works and whether this is something they would want to bring back to their home state.
Tampa is one of just three places in the country that will have this technology: the other two are in New York City and along Interstate 80 in Wyoming.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is investing tens of millions of dollars to roll out this technology.
The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is a user-financed public agency led by a board of local citizens. Operating with no tax dollars, THEA develops and owns toll highways, including Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. THEA also owns and maintains non-tolled roads, including Brandon Parkway and Meridian Avenue, and the Selmon Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path through downtown Tampa. All tolls collected by THEA are reinvested into projects in Hillsborough County. For more information, visit www.tampa-xway.com.