Lehigh Valley

LVPC amazed by automated vehicles report

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Members of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said Thursday they were fascinated with the technology advancements presented during a report on the nation's first statewide conference on automated vehicles.

The presentation was a part of the 2017 Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit, held Sept.11 and 12 in State College.  

LVPC member Gordon Campbell, of Northampton County, serves on the board's transportation committee. He reviewed the conference's highlights, which included taking a one-mile test drive on Penn State's Larson Institute Test Track in Bellefonte in an automated 2011 Cadillac STS.

He explained a recorded video featuring both car interior and outside track footage of the Cadillac driving autonomously around the perimeter with four passengers inside.

Passengers included Campbell and inventor Raj Rajkumar, a George Westinghouse Professor of Computers and Electrical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and an expert on cyber-physical systems with an emphasis on self-driving vehicles.

The Cadillac provided nearly 200 of the summit's attendees with rides, Campbell said. He said the car drove on its own using not only GPS technology, but also light detection and ranging or LIDAR, radar, and cameras.

Most of the installed technology is located above the front windshield and a large, red stop button sits in plain view at the center of the front console. The test drives, however, did not demonstrate encounters with other vehicles or pedestrians on the track.

Summit literature said the event specifically focused on two critical questions for the future:

  • How should local and regional governments prepare their infrastructure for autonomous vehicles?
  • What training and programs will best prepare the workforce to capture the new jobs that accompany the technological innovations?

Campbell said other demonstrations at the track included a Penn State Volvo featuring automated trucking technology and a Uber vehicle on display also equipped with self-driving technology.

 LVPC Executive Director Becky Bradley noted Royal Truck and Equipment, of Coopersburg, has  invented and currently manufactures a substantial number of automated truck parts. The company presented a self-driving highway work-zone vehicle at the track.

In addition, Campbell pointed out there are automated work-zone vehicles designed to follow manually driven lead trucks in a work zone area and are outfitted with safety features designed to serve as crash barriers. The new automated technology affords the automated truck a wireless connection to the manually-driven lead vehicle, he said.

The conference was convened by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the state's Department of Community and Economic Development.

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