FutureStructure

Contra Costa County Looks to Become Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center

The county transportation authority today announced a major new partner that it hopes will propel its new autonomous vehicle testing facility, GoMentum Station.

by Chad Vander Veen - Editor, FutureStructure / March 31, 2015
Connected and autonomous vehicle technology will help optimize roadway utilization, potentially saving billions in future infrastructure expansion.

CONCORD, Calif – Amid rapidly increasing interest in the evolving reality of connected and even autonomous cars plying American roadways, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority hopes it can position itself as a global hub of research and innovation that will transform how we drive.

On Tuesday the authority unveiled a new, heavyweight partnership for testing connected and autonomous vehicle technology at the newly created “GoMentum Station” – a 5,000 acre test bed located at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area.

Authority Chair Julie Pierce said Honda will be the first major automaker to use GoMentum Station as part of its efforts to develop both connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle technology.

“This is all about the future. This is about our kids and our grandkids,” Pierce said of research into creating driverless cars. “I am thrilled to be able to announce today that Honda is the newest partner in the GoMentum program. They will begin testing their self-driving car technology at the GoMentum Station as soon as next week.”   

GoMentum Station offers an ideal setting for the testing and development of potentially transformative automobile technology. The facility, closed for military purposes in 2007, is presently being transferred to the city of Concord. Offering more than 20 miles of roads and associated infrastructure, the former naval testing site will stand in for real-world driving environments.   

The county and the authority look to position GoMentum Station as a cutting-edge research and development site that will create new jobs and businesses as the technology involved in building autonomous cars continues to advance.

“Our roads cannot continue to grow larger, they must grow smarter,” said Concord Mayor Timothy Grayson. “Concord is poised to become the largest site in the world for autonomous and connected vehicle testing.”

“I am confident that today will be remembered by many generations to come,” Grayson said.

The two technologies – connected and autonomous – are at present separate but deeply related. Connected cars are vehicles that use a range of communication technology – including dedicated short range communication (DSRC) – to relay information about their speed, heading and direction to other vehicles, to roadside infrastructure, to traffic operations centers and even to pedestrian smartphones. Commonly referred to as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P), and collectively as V2X, connected vehicles are projected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to reduce roadway fatalities caused by unimpaired drivers by more than 80 percent when all vehicles are equipped with such features.

Autonomous cars, meanwhile, are cars that are capable of piloting themselves without human intervention. Using a combination of sensors, video, LIDAR and high-end processing power, the advent of autonomous cars has shifted into high-gear in recent years. Just a few years ago, most projections placed the arrival of autonomous cars on U.S. roads at some time in the mid-2020s. Now automakers like Tesla, GM and Honda are aiming to develop viable autonomous vehicles much sooner.

At the GoMentum Station, Honda will begin testing autonomous versions of its Acura RLX sedan. The vehicle will feature a host of sensor and camera technologies that will eventually make their way into consumer models across all of Honda’s fleet.