By Steve Kuhlmann
Published July 6, 2016
In an attempt to draw companies and projects to College Station, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute will use the A&M campus as a testing ground for new technology this fall.
Robert Brydia, a senior research scientist at TTI, said the goal of the initiative is to create a smarter campus transportation ecosystem that places a focus on increasing safety, efficiency and connectivity.
Brydia said the agency is seeking requests for information from companies that may be interested in partnering on the plan.
"The [requests for information] is a call to companies, regardless of size, that if they have a technology or an idea to make transportation better in some way, we want them to bring it here to Texas A&M," Brydia said. "We have a combination of expertise, testing facilities, industry connections, faculty, staff and students that are world-renowned experts in a number of different areas ... That's a combination of attributes that is difficult or impossible to match anywhere else."
Brydia said companies that decide to bring the projects to the university will have access to the campus, students and faculty experts, as well as controlled research facilities for testing.
As outlined in the request for information released in May, TTI listed automated vehicles, smart intersections, smart phone applications, green and sustainable transportation and pedestrian and bicycle safety technologies as a few examples of the types of innovations they are hoping to attract.
Peter Lange, executive director of the Texas A&M Transportation Services, said he and his staff are excited for the opportunity to see the new ideas come to the campus.
While Lange said autonomous vehicles have become the most compelling technology to talk about when discussing the future of transportation, he noted there are several emerging technologies that have the potential to improve transportation by making it safer and more efficient.
"Maybe there is some kind of technology which will allow us to move people around campus more effectively," Lange said. "In the interim, there is all kinds of stuff that could help to make our daily lives better and allow us to be more efficient in what we're doing."
One area in which Lange said he is particularly excited is the possibility of a more connected system, which would give users a more simplified and intuitive way of taking advantage of available resources.
Lange added that he also sees the initiative as an opportunity for the university to evaluate and prepare its infrastructure for the future of transportation.
"These are the kinds of things that make me think about what we as a campus need to put in place to get ready for the future," Lange said. "Its about trying to plan for an autonomous bus lane or a dedicated infrastructure to support something that may happen in the future ... I think those are all cool things, especially when there is technology and data involved."
Among the benefits of the program, Brydia said he hopes to see the engagement of the university's students as a key component of the initiative.
"We want the students to be an active and integral part of the evaluations and the demonstrations," Brydia said. "We want to hear their feedback."
Also included in the process: TTI will evaluate the technologies, noting the successes of each project and offering ideas for enhancements.
According to TTI, Texas A&M's campus has more than 68,000 students, faculty and staff and up to 53,000 transit riders each day.
The initiative will be a part of the new RELLIS campus, which is set to take over the current Riverside campus west of Bryan and become a hub for innovative research and development.
Brydia said the deadline for request for information submissions will be Aug. 10, with the first on-campus demonstration expected to take place before the end of August.
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