“Auto-valet” services are coming to DFW International Airport.
Autonomous parking technology company STEER Tech is planning to use the airport as a testbed for an automated parking ecosystem as part of the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ (NCTCOG) program to use driverless tech to accommodate the region’s growing population.
“The [autonomous vehicle] tests fit into the airport team’s focus on efficient mobility throughout the airport,” said Paul Puopolo, executive VP of innovation at DFW International Airport, in a statement.
The Maryland-based company said the autonomous ecosystem will be comprised of three subsystems: automated valet parking, digital curb management, and parking lot management for autonomous vehicles. The pilot of the technology will take place at Terminal A, with the aim of alleviating congestion at drop-off and pick-up areas by telling cars where to go and coordinating with other vehicles.
The test of STEER’s technology will last between three to six months, with Puopolo telling the Fort Worth Report that self-driving vehicles could be parking themselves at DFW in the next five to eight years.
“Parking is vital, it’s another one of these vital bridge technologies,” said Clint Hail, a transportation planner with the NCTCOG, at the organization’s meeting last month. “It’s something that’s happening now…and it’s only going to accelerate. Finding ways to do parking differently in the light of these technologies, that’s a really great opportunity.”
Autonomous tech across the region
The pilot is being funded through the NCTCOG’s Regional Transportation Council’s (RTC) Automated Vehicles Program, which allocated $1.5 million to the test. Last month the voluntary association of local governments added $3 million to fund a handful of driverless technology-related projects across the region, adding to the more than $31 million allocated to the program since 2018.
With the additional money, the RTC is funding five projects, including the expansion of the city of Arlington’s RAPID Program, a partnership between UT Arlington, Via Transportation, and May Mobility to provide on-demand transportation services with autonomous vehicles. Other projects include a partnership with the nonprofit Feonix-Mobility Rising to bring autonomous vehicles to McKinney and southern Dallas to act as mobile sites for telehealth visits, increasing broadband access in places like Lancaster and southern Fort Worth, as well as introducing a system that would automate traffic lights for emergency vehicles to quickly reach their destination.
The first round of projects, funded in 2018, of the Automated Vehicles Program included testing an autonomous vehicle truck port in Fort Worth, mobile food delivery services at Paul Quinn College, and an automated bus line on DART’s operations between Dallas Love Field Airport and the Inwood/Love Field Station.
“The larger significance of this project…is deepening the innovation portfolio in the region, creating a level playing field for every community in North Texas to participate,” said Hail, who’s overseeing the NCTCOG’s technology and innovation program.
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