driverless car
A Google driverless car. Image from Google video

More than 40 companies, institutions and government agencies gathered in San Diego Thursday as part of consortium looking at how to move forward with testing driverless cars in the area.

The meeting at Caltrans District 11 headquarters on Taylor Street was the first for the “San Diego Regional Proving Ground Consortium” hosted by SANDAG, Caltrans, and the City of Chula Vista. Consortium attendees from academia, the military, government agencies, technology and cyber companies, and vehicle manufacturers traded ideas on ways to integrate smart technology systems into vehicles and infrastructure to facilitate and connect autonomous vehicles into transportation grids.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected the San Diego region as one of 10 designated proving grounds in the nation to encourage testing and sharing information around autonomous vehicle technologies.

SANDAG, Caltrans District 11, and the City of Chula Vista applied jointly for this designation.

Although autonomous vehicles are not yet being tested on the San Diego Regional Proving Ground, the goal is to eventually make it a place to collaboratively test technology in real-time situations on city streets and regional highways.

The areas defined as the San Diego Regional Proving Ground to be used for driverless car testing include:

Interstate 15 Express Lanes: A 20-mile segment of the I-15 Express Lanes with grade changes between State Route 163 in San Diego and State Route 78 in Escondido. The Express Lanes use the Integrated Corridor Management system and feature a movable barrier to manage traffic flow, all available to companies that use the proving ground. An 11,000 square-foot facility with offices, storage, maintenance bays, and secure parking is adjacent to the Express Lanes.

South Bay Expressway: A 10-mile toll road in eastern Chula Vista provides connections to the U.S./Mexico border crossing. The expressway is a multi-lane, bi-directional toll road with grade changes. Traffic management technology such as closed-circuit TV, speed detectors, toll plazas, dynamic messaging signs, and traffic signals are available to companies. A staging facility with office space, storage, maintenance, and secure parking is adjacent to the expressway.

The City of Chula Vista’s streets and arterials: This is an opportunity to test within an entire city, including planned communities, traditional grid patterned streets, and areas of new development. Surface streets offer a variety of speeds, driving patterns, and intersections. The city’s maintenance garage could provide a staging facility with secure parking, office space, and a maintenance facility.

“The vision for the San Diego Regional Proving Ground is to provide real-world facilities for validating innovative technologies that advance mobility, safety, sustainability, and economic prosperity for the San Diego region. The San Diego RPG will allow companies to test autonomous and connected vehicles and their supporting technology. These innovative modes, methods, and models will transform the movement of people and goods throughout the state and the nation,” according to a statement from SANDAG.

“The San Diego region is a hot bed of technology, and we are excited to explore the limitless opportunities for safety and mobility, and to provide an innovative platform in a real-world environment for technology in the future,” said Cory Binns, Caltrans District 11 acting director.

To learn more about the San Diego Regional Proving Ground or for information on becoming an affiliate of the consortium, click here.