Central Florida is now home to a one-of-a-kind testing ground for deploying connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies.
I-STREET (Implementing Solutions from Transportation Research and Evaluation of Emerging Technologies) is a smart, multimodal roadway network weaving through parts of the University of Florida (UF) campus, the City of Gainesville (CoG), and Interstate 75 that is dedicated to advancing the state of the art in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) implementation. The project is a joint effort between the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the UF Transportation Institute (UFTI), CoG, and industry partners.
The vision for I-STREET is to provide an intelligent road system where government, industry, and academia can develop and test technologies that enhance communication between personal and mass transit vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic signalization – a true “Internet of Transportation Things.”
Over 30 countries are exploring CAV technologies, with many efforts underway in the U.S. I-STREET, however, is different. It is the only comprehensive testbed that is completely on public roads.
“Everything we do is real world,” said Dr. Lily Elefteriadou, UFTI Director and Principal Investigator for I‑STREET. “Our team did a thorough literature review before proceeding with I-STREET, looking for what had not been done. We studied over 400 U.S. and international activities and testbeds. This is unique.”
The I-STREET system comprises four subsections, all part of existing roadway networks in and around Gainesville. Each is dedicated to studying a different transportation mode.
“The interstate section can be used for researching freight movement, the downtown segment is for pedestrian and bicycle mobility, another for cars, and a fourth for transit,” said Emmanuel Posadas, Traffic Operations Manager for CoG. “I-STREET captures them all at different scales.”
The goal is to facilitate the development of as many new products and control strategies as possible that can be deployed not just in Florida, but nationally.
“We’re looking at much more comprehensive instrumentation and operations,” Elefteriadou said. “We’re not just exploring one aspect of testing. We have a wide variety of technologies deployed so we can evaluate each individually, as well as their interactions.”
Current I-STREET projects include several foundational efforts: The I-75 Florida’s Regional Advanced Mobility Elements (I-FRAME), which involves installing roadside monitoring units along stretches of I-75 and US 301/US 441 that will be used for CAV communication; a pedestrian/bicycle safety enhancement project on the UF campus; and the Gainesville Signal Phase and Timing (SPaT) Trapezium, dedicated to studying how connected infrastructure can improve travel time reliability, safety, throughput, and traveler information.
These initial projects focus on installing the core monitoring and communication infrastructure needed to set the stage for future academic and industry research projects.
“We are laying the groundwork for testing so others don’t have to,” Elefteriadou said. “Then they can just come here and implement their research.”
But what about safety? The value of a traditional closed-course testing environment is that risk can be kept to a minimum. What about on a real-world testbed?
Dr. Clark Letter is a UFTI researcher and the I-STREET testbed manager. He is responsible for its entire operation and works closely with FDOT, CoG, the Gainesville Regional Transit System, and the UF Police Department to maintain and implement the testbed’s safety management plan.
“The plan requires collaboration with all partners to approve projects and includes clear guidance to account for various safety-related scenarios,” Letter said. “A level of risk is applied to each scenario that itemizes specific actions to take to reduce risk. We also require applications and technologies testing on the system to include a fail-safe mode to ensure safety.”
A steering committee with representatives from each of the involved entities meets quarterly to evaluate ongoing and upcoming test activities. Each entity interested in conducting a test must submit documentation to the steering committee for review and approval. Results of the tests also have to be submitted to the committee along with any safety concerns and incidents. Testing that is deemed unsafe is rejected or, if in process, immediately stopped.
All on Board
I-STREET would not be possible without significant cooperation among stakeholders. The testbed includes state arterials, CoG roads on and off the UF campus, and sections of federal I-75. All traffic signals are maintained by CoG and FDOT has provided most of the funding for projects so far. Private industry will also play an increasing role.
How was this level of collaboration achieved?
“In a word, ‘leadership,’” said Posadas. “Executives at FDOT, UF, and CoG are all behind this and pushing for it. From the top down, we all want to establish a smart city here in Gainesville and position Florida as a premier center for transportation research.”
“FDOT looks forward to leveraging technology to improve the safety and mobility of all the users of our transportation system,” said FDOT Assistant Secretary Tom Byron.
Open for Business
A linchpin of I-STREET’s success is private industry involvement.
To that end, I-STREET issued a request for information (RFI) seeking interested industry partners. Nearly 25 companies have responded to the RFI so far, expressing serious interest in using the testbed.
“Dozens of other companies have also contacted us informally,” Letter said. “We are currently working out the details of these relationships, but we are excited to see such a response and get this momentum going.”
“We’ve also reached out to over 200 private companies and have gotten outstanding response so far,” Posadas said.
Letter said the long-term success of I-STREET depends on these public-private relationships. “The goal is to have a self-sustaining testbed. Industry partnerships will help us do that. We’re investing in the research infrastructure and equipment. Our message to industry is, ‘Come use it.’”
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