The vision for Texas A&M University's future campus is clear: Automated vehicles transport students, faculty, staff and visitors from parking lots to campus buildings, and football fans to and from its stadium. When driving through campus, motorists stop at smart intersections that respond to traffic, especially at times of heightened demand. Drivers are warned about trains approaching the tracks that bisect the campus. Campus-operated maintenance vehicles are all electric, and smart signage outside each parking lot displays the number of spaces remaining.
Through its Campus Transportation Technology Initiative, Texas A&M is transforming its Riverside Campus into a technology and research facility, now called the RELLIS Campus, to test and deploy advanced transportation technologies. And the ultimate goal is that Texas A&M will share its vision with all universities and large campus institutions.
But the university must start somewhere, and that's where a recently released Request for Information (RFI) comes into play. The initiative is conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) under the direction of Texas A&M University. And this RFI is being shared with various companies that have products related to any aspect of transportation technology.
“At this time we have many modes of transportation on campus including several alternative transportation options, but the user experience is not seamless,” said Peter Lange, executive director of the university’s transportation services. “We think we will see companies that will develop mobile apps and develop other innovative concepts that can help make transportation options more seamless to commuters.”
Once TTI accepts an applicant's RFI, that business will be invited to demonstrate the technology on the RELLIS Campus.
“It’s 2,000 acres of ground that can be transformed into the campus of tomorrow,” said Bob Brydia, senior research scientist at TTI’s Connected Vehicles and Infrastructure Program. “The call is for any company, regardless of size: If you have an idea to make transportation in some way, bring it this way and let us help you.”
The vision is to improve campus transportation as it relates to safety, mobility and efficiency for all the different people who use it. For example, perhaps a company can demonstrate a transportation solution for the university’s Football Saturdays, when there are about 120,000 people in the Bryan-College Station, making it fourth-largest metropolitan area in the state.
“Through this technology initiative, we will have the opportunity to implement infrastructure that can potentially be used for the future,” Lange said. “As we see and demonstrate these new technologies on campus, it will give us a glimpse of what will need to be included to support wide-spread deployment of mobility and transportation technologies in the coming years.”
For companies that are invited to pilot their ideas, the university will provide the testing venues for technology demonstrations. The testing may be conducted in the 5,200 acres of buildings, among the 53,000 daily transit riders, inside the 36,000 parking spaces or within the 92-bus system.
“It’s a huge transportation ecosystem that’s untapped as far as it being a testing ground for the technology of tomorrow,” Brydia said. “For the technology that’s chosen, we’ll provide the logistics to get them into place.”
Within the RFI, TTI requests companies to share goals, outcomes, benefits, the necessary operational environment, full scope and duration, and what the company proposes would be the appropriate form of evaluation metrics.
“There are no hard and fast rules,” Brydia said. “It’s not intended to be a restrictive process. So if 30 companies respond, we’d like to select 30. We just have to make sure we have the capability to provide the testing facility and support to assist them.”
The university does not carry the upfront cost for each company’s technology demonstration; however, TTI and its partners will evaluate the technologies. TTI will publish a comprehensive report of the findings and share it with the company to help it refine and continue to grow its product line.
The initial submission deadline is Aug. 10, 2016; however, the RFI will remain open to companies for one year. Thus far, a few dozen companies have expressed interest.
“We recognize that companies may have assets tied up in other demonstrations or may not be ready,” Brydia said. “When they are ready, they have an open place to come test on the A&M campus. If you have a technology that you envision that can make transportation safer, smarter and more efficient, we want to help your realize that vision. It helps you. It helps us. There’s a shared-value proposition.”