TDOT, Vanderbilt studying self-driving cars on I-24

Posted at 6:43 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 22:07:36-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A six-mile portion of I-24 will soon be the test site for a first-of-its-kind study on how autonomous cars impact traffic.

Atop 110 foot tall poles, 300 ultra high definition cameras will view the section of road between Bell and Waldren roads.

The goal is to collect data about how autonomous vehicles move in traffic and improve the flow of vehicles for everyone.

"Human drivers are actually less consistent than autonomous vehicles are today," said Dan Work, engineer and researcher for Vanderbilt University. "So, we can actually pick up the nuances of the way that you or I drive that are distinct from the way automated vehicles drive."

The cameras will feed back images of traffic over the entire six-mile stretch when it's completed in 2022. Right now, there are currently 18 cameras already in use for a stretch of 1500 feet of roadway.

Work said he believes the study will help autonomous car makers design better self-driving systems.

Images are fed into a high-powered computer. The research will also allow for data to be collected about which road patterns cause the most accidents or injuries.

Work said this is the most comprehensive visual road study ever conducted.

"This doesn't exist anywhere else on earth," he said. "What we're trying to do is make sure any autonomous vehicle technologies that can help improve traffic are being developed in Tennessee."

Vanderbilt is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the program. TDOT received an $11.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration for the program.

The two groups hope this research will have a broad impact on traffic development globally.