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Front Page - Friday, February 2, 2024

UTC unveils autonomous urban mobility vehicle

Researchers at the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga are driving faster into the future of mobility with the recent arrival of the university’s first autonomous vehicle.

The UTC Center for Urban Informatics and Progress purchased the vehicle from Hexagon | AutonomouStuff and will soon deploy it along the MLK Smart Corridor and other parts of downtown Chattanooga.

As the vehicle travels a loop from East Martin Luther King Boulevard to the Edney Innovation Center on Market Street and then to the UTC campus, it will gather real-time data about the interactions between other cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

A human driver will remain in the vehicle – technically a “research and development autonomous platform” – at all times, in compliance with traffic laws.

“This state-of-the-art vehicle will be an invaluable tool in our data gathering, all of which is working to make our streets and public spaces safer, more efficient, and more useful to everyone,” says Austin Harris, director of operations and chief engineer for the UTC Research Institute and CUIP. “Since we launched the Smart Corridor project five years ago, we’ve made continual advances in the quality and quantity of data we’re able to analyze.

“We look forward to learning what we can from this vehicle to help guide everything from traffic light patterns to pedestrian safety enhancements to the design of streets.”

As manager of the MLK Smart Corridor, Harris has principal responsibility for the vehicle’s operations.

“This technology unlocks new understanding about how our city works and moves,” says Mina Sartipi, executive director of the UTC Research Institute and CUIP founding director. “Urban mobility is changing in a lot of ways, and cities like Chattanooga owe it to themselves to prepare for this future today.”

Data collected through the MLK Smart Corridor project improves city operations, such as making traffic flow more smoothly, increasing pedestrian safety, and monitoring air quality and noise levels. This corridor serves as an urban testing ground for ideas and technologies that potentially could apply to other cities worldwide.

The MLK Smart Corridor is a collaboration between UTC, the City of Chattanooga, EPB and other community partners. CUIP is a smart city and urbanization research center at UTC.