MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – "That future is a lot closer than people think," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said about driverless cars.
An August Call Christina story about driverless cars caught the attention of Gimenez.
Driverless cars: Call Christina team gives you ride into future
"It's coming and it's coming a lot faster than people think," he told Local 10 News' Christina Vazquez. "The rate of technology and the rate of change is accelerating, and that technology is going to get here way before anybody thinks it's going to get here."
Gimenez is both excited about the emerging technology and planning on how to make it work in one of the largest counties in the country.
"It is one of those technologies that really changes everything," he said.
Just this week, Toyota announced it would launch driverless cars by 2020; just five years away.
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"It would be good for the consumer, (and) it will reduce our transportation costs which means more money in the pocket of our residents," Gimenez said. "In the future, once it becomes all driverless, the actual capacity of the roads we have today actually increase. I look forward to the day when I won't have to buy a car."
Gimenez said communities like Miami-Dade County need to start thinking of how self-driving cars would work in an urban context. That includes questions related to regulation, insurance and infrastructure.
He also wants Miami-Dade County to be on the front edge of an industry that he believes will reduce transportation costs and vehicle accidents.
The World Economic Forum USA invited Gimenez to a meeting in San Francisco this November to talk about "Shaping the Transformation of Urban Mobility." It will be co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. Also in attendance will be Mark Fields, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company.
The brainstorming session involving city mayors, insurance industry executives and autonomous vehicle industry experts is aimed at generating new ideas about what the future of transportation will look like.
"All the pragmatic aspects of it, but they want to pick my brain. What do I think, because they have heard me talk about the subject," Gimenez said. "As a political leader, what will the politicians think? Will they regulate it? I hope to bring back when is it going to happen, how fast is it going to happen, what's the state of the technology? Does it take some kind of infrastructure? Do we have that infrastructure here in Miami-Dade County? How to make Miami-Dade County ready for that technology when it does come? I would like for us to take advantage of all new technologies as quickly as possible so that's what I am going to get out of it when I go out there."
Big money for cities investing in driverless technology:
Tampa is already home to driverless test tracks along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, just one of a handful of cities in the country certified for driverless car testing.
An Audi Connect prototype made its test run on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in the summer of 2014.
Being one of the first cities to get out of the gate and make driverless car testing on public roads a reality is in part what helped the city land substantial federal funding related to a national award to improve traffic flow.
In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) a $17 million dollar contract for a "Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilot Program."
The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway stated on its website that the program "is designed to make transportation safer, smarter and greener. The THEA CV pilot program would outfit cars, buses and roadside equipment with technology so that they can communicate with each other about various traffic conditions."
"We're bringing transportation into the 21st century and Florida is going to be at the center of it all," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said. "Tampa will be among the first cities in the nation to use the latest technology to make it safer and easier to drive."
Last summer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the University of Michigan opened a $10 million driverless car testing ground.
"MCity" is a research hub to test autonomous and connected vehicle technology. A million dollars in funding is coming from a collection of car manufacturers to include Toyota, Honda, Nissan, General Motors and Ford. Other companies in the "Leadership Circle" who have pledged $150,000 over three years include Verizon, Xerox, Delphi and Qualcomm.
"I want to see what we need here in order to bring them when they are ready for prime time," Gimenez said.
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