Autonomous cars are coming to North Texas roadways, and a one-man department at the North Central Texas Council of Governments is at the vanguard of planning for that day.
Thomas Bamonte, senior program manager for the autonomous vehicles department, is at the controls of NCTCG’s efforts to make the region a national leader in driverless technology and the public policies that will address it, according to Government Technology magazine. His department was formed 18 months ago.
NCTCG is at the heart of funding and public policy formulation on a variety of transportation initiatives in North Texas and it already is working on pilot programs to usher in the new technologies.
“All of my colleagues — in their subject-matter areas — were learning more, seeing more discussions about those [autonomous vehicle] technologies and business practices.”
“All of my colleagues — in their subject-matter areas — were learning more, seeing more discussions about those [autonomous vehicle] technologies and business practices,” Bamonte said in an interview on the magazine’s website, govtech.com. “But the COG [Council of Governments] wanted someone who could live and breathe this stuff.”
NCTCG saw the importance of being at the forefront.
“Many of the folks here saw the developments, and we wanted to be an MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) that kind of, I would say, get in front of the [autonomous vehicle] issue,” Bamonte said.
He said that having a rigorous focus on what transportation automation could mean to the region would influence how officials plan, program, deliver, operate, and maintain the North Texas transportation system.
In response, NCTCG created an “automated vehicle program,” approved earlier this year by the Regional Transportation Council, a subset of the Council of Governments. The program includes funding for two low-speed automated vehicle pilot programs, and funding to back the use of Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth as a test corridor for transportation tech, govtech said.
Bamonte said one grant program encourages local cities to make their traffic signal data accessible to the developer community to support connected-vehicle applications.
Another grant program asks that cities share their transportation data with travel navigation services such as Waze, “and to make use of the data streams that they receive in return,” Bamonte told govtech.
The NCTCG also is using some money to research or reinvent “people-mover systems using automated vehicles,” expanding the discussion beyond the single personal vehicles to options that could take the form of small electric buses, he said.
Autonomous vehicle technology in which vehicles communicate with city traffic systems rolled out in Frisco earlier this year. And, Arlington is testing an autonomous shuttle service. Meanwhile, the Dallas Innovation Alliance continues to drive the Smart Cities initiative in Dallas with a living lab in the city’s West End neighborhood.
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