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Georgia, Texas Partner for Next-Gen Transportation Innovation

The Ray, a highway testbed in Georgia, is partnering with Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin to explore transportation opportunities.

a road sign welcoming drivers to Texas
Shutterstock/Nick Fox
The Ray, a portion of Interstate 85 in Georgia serving as a transportation innovation testbed, is partnering with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin to explore opportunities in the Lone Star State.  

“The partnership with The Ray will offer the opportunity to investigate and potentially test a wide range of innovative processes and technologies,” said Steve Pustelnyk, director of community relations at the Mobility Authority.
In Georgia, The Ray has been involved in projects as diverse as helping to develop and test new technologies in highway striping to accommodate advanced driving systems (ADS) technology. The highway has also led the way in developing connected vehicles technology in the state and a large solar field located in right of way. In a report The Ray helped draft, researchers found interstate exits have the potential to generate some 36 terawatts of energy per year, which equals about 1 percent of U.S. electricity consumption.    
These are some of the innovative ideas organizations like The Ray can move forward by partnering with cities and regions. Austin will use its partnership to explore strategies and objectives outlined in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, said Jeff Stensland, a public information specialist with the Austin Department of Transportation. 
“Mobility project teams will prioritize efforts that enhance sustainability and resilience, improve safety, encourage innovation, and bolster racial equity and accessibility,” said Stensland. “These projects could include but are not limited to connected autonomous vehicle infrastructure, installation of solar-powered structures and exploration of dynamic electric vehicle charging opportunities.”
Meanwhile, the Central Texas Mobility Authority plans to pursue the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicle infrastructure, said Pustelnyk. This includes integrating autonomous vehicle data and advanced communication technologies into its regional traffic management and operations strategy. 
“The Mobility Authority is also investigating opportunities to create dedicated autonomous vehicle lanes and or roadways, and is working with Ford on a connected vehicle and road-usage charging pilot project,” said Pustelnyk.
The Mobility Authority oversees the operation of toll roads in Travis and Williamson counties. The roads do not require drivers to stop, allowing them to pay the toll via their electronic tag account, or receive a bill in the mail. Exploring new technologies related to tolling has been a mission of the Mobility Authority, making the partnership with The Ray all the more timely. 
“As the Mobility [Authority] pursues these and other goals for improving the Mobility experience in central Texas, The Ray is expected to bring new ideas to our table, to learn from our experiences and to then help others by spreading the word about what we’ve accomplished and what lessons we’ve learned,” said Pustelnyk. 
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.
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