CUTR Launches Automated Vehicle Institute

The Center for Urban Transportation Research at USF is leading the way exploring policies for implementation of automated vehicle technologies in Tampa Bay.  

By Katy Hennig

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2013) - Automated vehicle technology is set to change the direction of driving in a shift toward safety and driver assisted features, and the Tampa Bay area is getting ready for the future.

The Center for Urban Transportation and Research at the University of South Florida launched the Automated Vehicle Institute@CUTR as part of Florida's effort to be at the forefront of technology exploration and policy implementation.

Jason Bittner and Dennis Eirikis unveil the Automated Vehicle Institute @ CUTR. 

“Automated vehicle technology has been emerging at a rapid pace over the last several years,” said CUTR Director Jason Bittner.

CUTR recently took part in a collaborative discussion to identify opportunities and challenges around Automated Vehicle technology at the 2013 Florida Automated Vehicles Summit held in downtown Tampa. The summit was sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation, the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority and hosted by the Florida Engineering Society in an effort to begin to develop a framework for implementation of the technology.

Florida is poised to be a leader in automated vehicle testing, and is 1 of only 3 states that allow the technology to be tested on roadways, Bittner said.

"About three years ago (state) Sen. Jeff Brandes actually sponsored legislation that made Florida a state where autonomous and automated vehicles could be tested legally in our state,” Bittner said, noting the legislation kicked off interest in testing and implementing the technology throughout the state.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has created a framework for the various levels of automation, ranging from 0-4, with 4 including full automation.

Most automobile manufacturers are currently producing level 2 automated vehicles, including features such as adaptive cruise control and assisted braking, Bittner said. “You could go to any high-end dealership now and have elements of a systemOnce you combine those technologies together you really have the foundation for automated driving technology," Bittner said.

Summit participants view sensor technology in a level 2 automated vehicle.

The vehicle automation incorporates sensors, lidar scanning, creating a 3-D point cloud around the vehicle, and cameras all linked with software that creates potentially life-saving driver assistance features.

“Ninety-five percent of incidents are caused by human error, some human interaction," he said. "So what we are trying to do is create a safer driving environment by eliminating as much of that 95% as we can.”

Researchers at the Automated Vehicle Institute will continue to develop a framework for implementation and a foundation to move forward with the technology. 

Bittner says Tampa Bay could lead the way in automation if the right plans and ideas are generated through the institute, "not to work on the technology, but the implementation of those technologies on the policy and planning side. What are the opportunities? What are the key barriers?"

For more information about The Automated Vehicle Institute@CUTR visit

Katy Hennig can be reached at 813-974-6993.