Part of Selmon Expressway shut down for self-driving car demo in Tampa

Posted at 11:33 AM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 21:58:04-04

Most people don't have a self-driving vehicle, but a special demonstration is happening this week to expose more people to the technology.

The public was invited to take a free ride in a self-driving car this week in Tampa courtesy of Perrone Robotics, as well as SAE International, a global trade group that promotes the engineering professionals in the transportation industries.

The Selmon Expressway is being closed down for parts of this week by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority to conduct these 10-minute long test rides; slots filled up quickly with many people interested in seeing what some are calling the future of transportation.

"I am incredibly grateful that SAE International is bringing this self-driving "hands off" demo to Tampa Bay," said State Senator Jeff Brandes. "Our residents will be able to experience the future of transportation and provide feedback that will be invaluable to industry leaders and policy makers as we chart a course towards the shared, electric, and autonomous future." 

Riders will be asked to take a survey before they take the demo in the self-driving vehicle, and then another survey afterwards.

“Public comfort and acceptance of self-driving vehicles is crucial for their success, both in the near-term of testing and the future of widespread use,” says SAE International Chief Product Officer, Frank Menchaca. “SAE International serves as a convener, working with technology companies, auto manufacturers and government to safely advance autonomous vehicle development. This demo day brings the most important audience to the dialogue, the public,” adds Menchaca.   

Opinions of self-driving technology are slowly changing, but still mostly negative, according to a new survey by the automotive insurance and road safety company AAA.

A 2018 survey reveals that about 63% of U.S. drivers say they're fearful of event just taking a spin in a fully self-driving car.

But a year ago, the number of surveyed Americans who say said they were fearful number was 78%.

AAA's findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,004 American adults in December; the margin of error is estimated at plus or minus 3%.

Despite these reservations, many companies, like ride-sharing services, are exploring the use of autonomous vehicles.

Hillsborough County's bus system is also exploring the use of autonomous vehicles in Tampa.

Even if you didn't land a spot, you can still show up at the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority HQ in Tampa to check out the vehicles, and organizers say they may still be able to fit people in at the last moment.

To learn more about the demonstration, click HERE.