Honda to join Mercedes-Benz in testing self-driving cars at Concord Naval Weapons Station

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways April 2, 2015 08:26

Honda to join Mercedes-Benz in testing self-driving cars at Concord Naval Weapons Station

A self-driving Acura RLX is tested at the GoMentum station. (Honda photo)

In the latest proof of the Bay Area’s prominence in self-driving vehicle technology, Honda announced it will partner with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to test automated and connected vehicle technology at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

The Japanese automaker plans to test its self-driving Acura RLX sedan at the former military base, which includes about 20 miles of paved roadways, tunnels, parking lots, freeway underpasses, railroad crossings and streets laid out like a city grid. Mercedes-Benz also is testing its self-driving vehicles at the 2,100-acre “GoMentum Station,” which transportation authority officials say is the nation’s largest secure testing facility.Concord“The Concord Naval Weapons Station is an ideal proving ground to augment Honda’s research and development efforts because it is a controlled environment that can be continuously modified to represent a wide array of settings that an automated vehicle must navigate, especially for urban operation,” Paul Cummings, a spokesman for Honda Research Institute USA, said in a news release.

The transportation authority announced the partnership with Honda and formally introduced the GoMentum Station project during a conference in Concord on Tuesday on self-driving cars and vehicles equipped with technology to communicate with one another.

In addition to becoming a research and testing hub for emerging transportation technology, the goals for GoMentum Station include promoting economic growth, luring smart jobs, enhancing road safety and creating an efficient, seamless transportation system in Contra Costa County. To that end, the agency is pursuing partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including automakers, researchers, insurance companies and tech firms.

“We want to be at the forefront of this technology; we want to be a showcase,” said Randy Iwasaki, Contra Costa Transportation Authority executive director.

Neither the Navy nor Concord is receiving money from the automakers for the use of the weapons station. The transportation authority has a renewable license from the Navy to use the property, which will be turned over to the city of Concord for redevelopment beginning in early 2016. Infrastructure construction is scheduled to begin the following year.

“We’re trying to figure out how many partners we can have out at the site all at once,” said Michael Wright, executive director of the Local Reuse Authority. “We feel we can phase or stage the development and (land) transfers that will allow testing to move around to different locations.”

The Bay Area quickly is becoming the epicenter for new automotive research — both in driverless cars and vehicles outfitted with wireless technology that allows them to communicate with other cars and traffic signals to reduce accidents and congestion. In January, Nissan and NASA announced a five-year partnership to develop and test self-driving vehicles at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Google also is developing its own automated vehicle technology.

In addition to providing a smoother, less stressful commute, smart cars also are intended to make the roads safer.

Although traffic fatalities have declined in the last few years, about 33,000 people died in vehicle collisions in 2013, according to Kenneth Leonard, director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. The federal agency is pushing vehicle-to-vehicle communication as a way to save lives, ease congestion, reduce fuel consumption and cut pollution, Leonard said.

Story: Mercury News.com

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways April 2, 2015 08:26