JTA, FSCJ partner on education, autonomous vehicle testing

Four autonomous vehicles are operating along a route in full autonomous mode without attendants or other people on board to transport COVID-19 tests from a drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory on Mayo Clinic’s campus. (Courtesy: Mayo Clinic)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority and Florida State College at Jacksonville have agreed to expand JTA’s autonomous vehicle program with testing and educational initiatives on FSCJ campuses.

JTA’s Board of Directors approved a memorandum of understanding last week with FSCJ that includes:

  • The expansion of the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) Test & Learn Program to FSCJ’s Commercial Driver’s License Test Track on the school’s Cecil Center Campus
  • The development of an autonomous vehicle deployment or “Agile Plan” on an FSCJ campus
  • And the development of curriculum and educational initiatives relative to autonomous vehicles, and related technology

“As we continue to develop our autonomous vehicle program, it is vital that higher education and the workforce of tomorrow is included in that conversation,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “Being able to access FSCJ’s test track and other facilities will also allow us to expand our testing program, as we push forward with the U2C project.”

JTA is currently developing the U2C program, an innovative and fully connected autonomous vehicle network planned for Downtown Jacksonville and eventually expanding to other key areas in Northeast Florida.

Through four initial phases, the U2C will leverage the existing Skyway infrastructure and expand that network through ground-level connections and convert those structures to support autonomous vehicles.

The first phase, the Bay Street Innovation Corridor is fully funded.

“Our community is leading the way to the future of autonomous vehicles,” said FSCJ President Dr. John Avendano. “This partnership will provide innovative educational opportunities to the workforce in order to prepare our students for the next generation of automotive technology.”

The MOU sets the groundwork for JTA to expand its current U2C Test & Learn Program to FSCJ’s Cecil Center, which houses the school’s Aviation and Commercial Vehicle Driving programs.

As part of the efforts to integrate and socialize AV technology, JTA has also developed a strategy to incorporate community partners and local institutions like FSCJ through the development of a series of “Agile Plans.”

An Agile Plan comprises low-speed AV circulators at specific locations where there is a unique transportation need, while fulfilling a core principle of connecting people with emerging technologies.

Through this MOU, JTA and FSCJ will develop an Agile Plan for on-campus use.

Additionally, as JTA continues to innovate through the U2C project, senior members of the Authority’s Automation division will begin developing a curriculum and other educational initiatives in conjunction with FSCJ faculty that will focus on autonomous vehicles and other innovative technologies to prepare the workforce of the future.

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.