May 2018 — Last month, the City of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and Prototype Prime announced the creation of a city-owned autonomous vehicle track and Advanced Vehicle Technology Accelerator. By January 2019, the $2 million project will create a self-driving shuttle bus on a 1.4-mile stretch of Technology Parkway between Spalding Drive and Peachtree Parkway.
Despite what one might think, the goal of this autonomous shuttle bus is neither to address sustainability nor traffic. Instead, Peachtree Corners envisions this project as a way to propel economic development and attract top companies to the area. While the bus will be limited to only a small number of riders, it will serve as a test site for new AV-related technology. This test site is expected to attract companies focused on future transportation technologies.
Prototype Prime will work as a business incubator, as it is located on the planned 1.4-mile stretch of Technology Park where the autonomous shuttle will run. The company has over 25,000 square feet of space slated to house new startups and serve as the testing hub for future advanced vehicle projects.
In addition to the autonomous shuttle, Prototype Prime will launch the Advanced Vehicle Technology Accelerator in collaboration with TechConnectHub.com. This partnership is meant to foster collaboration among researchers, startups, Fortune 500 companies, local technology companies and corporations to work with the test shuttle.
All of this collaboration makes us wonder: Is the future of driving autonomous? In the last year, a large number of studies have been conducted regarding the impacts of a driverless world. Many studies explore congestion benefits, environmental benefits and even parking benefits.
One May 2017 study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, University Grenoble Alpes, the University of Arizona, Yale University, Penn State and Rutgers University found that adding just one autonomous vehicle to a mix of 19 normal vehicles lessened “jamiltons,” or traffic waves. Adding just one autonomous car to the mix reduced excessive braking events from 8.58 per vehicle per kilometer to just 0.12 per vehicle per kilometer. In short, autonomous vehicles are so efficient in speed that they reduce human inconsistency and result in much less traffic congestion.
In a heavily congested city such as Atlanta, autonomous driving could be the key to alleviating drivers’ woes. But is autonomous driving the future? The year 2018 is sure to bring many more studies and pilot programs in order to move toward this innovative technology. The Peachtree Corners vehicle track and accelerator program is propelling the future of transportation technology.