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Wednesday, 08 August 2018 20:06

Mike Clark: Driverless Cars Could Transform Our City

Written by Mike Clark, The Florida Times-Union
The JTA has been testing a driverless vehicle that could be used as the future of the Skyway. The JTA has been testing a driverless vehicle that could be used as the future of the Skyway. Florida Times-Union


Jacksonville, like most Florida cities, was built for cars.

The Expressway Authority, established in the 1950s before consolidation, put Jacksonville ahead of the curve in providing easy access to this county of 840 square miles.


The old streetcars that once traveled along Main Street are a forgotten thing of the past.


But now the county is filling up, driverless cars are on the horizon, express bus service is expanding and the benefits of walkability are becoming recognized.


Downtown and its nearby neighborhoods are prime locations for a return to the past in which one-person auto rides represent just one way to get around.


A special section in The Wall Street Journal explored some of the changes.


“As the arrival of driverless cars gets closer, cities are scrambling to get ready,” the article stated. And Jacksonville is at the forefront with its driverless car experiments, an attempt to capitalize on the Skyway without having to build expensive new additions.


Here are a few of the possibilities explored in the article:


On-demand public transit


You get on an app, request a vehicle and it arrives promptly, perhaps with a driver, perhaps not. The key: less waiting.


Streets are converted with more green space, more areas for walkers and fewer dangers to pedestrians.


The transition period could get confused with robot cars and human drivers sharing the roadways.


A trip from the suburbs downtown could begin with a rental bike to a transit station, a 20-minute ride followed by a robot taxi for the final mile to an office.


In an era of massive information, there would be something like an air traffic control system for ground travel. The needs of commuters could be anticipated by a smart transit system. For instance, enough robot taxis would be sent to a transit vehicle, anticipating the needs.


Would these robot vehicles be operated by a governmental unit like the JTA, a private company like Uber or both?


The use of synchronized traffic signals can dramatically improve the efficiency of driving. Jacksonville has underinvested in this technology. Is there anything more frustrating than to be stopped at a light with no traffic entering the intersection? This frustration is probably why running red lights is a Jacksonville tradition.

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