Plans for Knoxville to test self-driving cars underway

City leaders think Knoxville is the perfect city to test self-driving cars.

KNOXVILLE - Knoxville could become a test city for self-driving cars.

Mayor Madeline Rogero met with transportation leaders Wednesday to discuss the possibility of Knoxville becoming the newest testing city for self-driving cars.

The meeting was held at GRIDSMART Technologies, a company that can control how smart, driverless cars communicate with each other. 

Several cities including Ann Arbor, Mich., Contra Cosa, Calif. and Tampa, Fla. have already established test beds on both public and private roads.

Knoxville offers researchers for self-driving cars a four-season climate, hills and flatland, according to Bill Malkes, founder and CEO of GRIDSMART.

"It is a little disconcerting when you get into a car because it makes turns that you don't expect it to make and it does it perfect but our reaction is to grab at it which is why there will be a transition period for it and again, Knoxville is very well positioned to play a role in that," Malkes shared about riding in a driverless car. 

Rogero agrees with Malkes, as she said Knoxville offers a perfect place for self-driving cars to be tested. 

"We offer a lot to help advance the technology and everything that I've been hearing as a mayor, when I go to mayor's conferences, is that cities need to start planning for this technology and that it is happening," Rogero shared. 

She said being able to test self-driving cars in the city will increase economic development, provide opportunity for research institutions like the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab, and development for manufacturers who are producing products for the cars. 

ORNL researcher and Deputy Director of the Urban Dynamics Institute Andreas Malikopoulous says there are many benefits for self-driving cars. 

"We've seen benefits ranging all the way from 35 percent to 65 percent in fuel consumption for the entire transportation system, in that all the vehicles are connected and automated," Malikopoulous shared. 

He said it has been exciting to research self-driving car technology as it's complex and challenging. 

He compared two roadways, one with regular cars and one with self-driving cars to show how the coordination and communication would work. 

Malikopoulous, along with other ORNL researchers, hope to continue to explore self-driving cars and the possiblity of Knoxville becoming a test bed in the near future. 

 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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