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HART obtains FDOT funding to study driverless service

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

No doubt you’ve probably heard about driverless cars – but what about a driverless bus?

Officials with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) announced on Monday that the Florida Dept. of Transportation was making “up to” $1 million to fund an fund an Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Circulator Service connection between the Marion Transit Center to doowntown Tampa along the Marion Street Transitway, a street that runs through downtown that is strictly for HART buses currently to traverse.

Officials say the project would be the first of its kind in the country utilizing autonomous technology.

“FDOT is working together with our communities to promote the use of autonomous technologies,” FDOT District Seven Secretary Paul Steinman said in a statement. “Our mission is to help solve the transportation needs of our area utilizing all transportation modes, while maximizing the use of the funding sources available. We are very excited about this project.”

For the next two years, HART will receive $500,000 each year from FDOT to fund the project. Funding for a third year, officials say, will depend on the success of the program.

“We want to thank FDOT Secretary Paul Steinman for his leadership in helping HART receive up to $1 million in funding from the Florida Department of Transportation for this service,” HART Chief Financial Officer Jeff Seward said. “We will utilize our experience in multi-modal solutions to work with our partners to provide much-needed relief to address mobility needs in Downtown Tampa.”

Florida and FDOT specifically, have taken steps to consider themselves in the vanguard of Autonomous Vehicle transportation. Florida is one of eight states to pass legislation encourage development of the burgeoning technology, and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority received grant in 2015 of $17 million to design an automated vehicle roadway system, and is now in the design stage of that development.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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