By Veronica Brezina

New images released today take you behind the wheel of what the new self-driving car test track being built in Polk County will look like.

The test track, dubbed SunTrax, is a 2.25-mile oval track on a 400-acre site in Auburndale and will test autonomous vehicles in simulated situations such as rain, fog and smoke.

SunTrax is a long-term partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida’s Turnpike and Florida Polytechnic University.

“As a leader in transportation technology, Florida is creating this high-tech hub for the research, development, and testing of emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems and other advanced transportation concepts,” Diane Scaccetti, executive director of Florida’s Turnpike, said during the groundbreaking event on Nov. 13.

The test track will be within a 45-minute drive from Florida’s Turnpike headquarters in Ocoee, centralizing testing operations.

Construction on the oval track started in June and is scheduled to be completed in spring 2019. Meanwhile, construction will begin in fall 2018 on the track’s 200-acre infield — which will include a simulated urban environment complete with buildings, pedestrians and more for automated and connected vehicle testing.

The initial phase of the project focuses on the construction of an innovative toll testing facility expected to offer local and potentially national and international certification for tolling technologies.

Once completed, SunTrax will allow the testing of:

  • Rainfall simulations, where vehicles will have to deal with a severe heavy rainfall-simulated environment
  • Three-level interchange bridges and tunnels to test GPS connectivityIntersections, roundabouts and highway ramp terminals
  • A parking garage for both employees and testing
  • Testing different toll equipment as well as smartphone-based payment technologies
  • Simulated school crossings and unmarked driveways
  • Multiple roadway surfaces such as dirt, cobblestone and/or gravel

Central Florida was chosen to be one of the nation’s 10 premier clusters for research and the development of automated vehicle technology across all modes of travel this year, as OBJ previously reported. The local testing ground was awarded to the Central Florida Autonomous Vehicle Partnership that consists of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Florida Turnpike Enterprise and Florida Polytechnic University, as well as NASA, the University of Central Florida, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Lynx and others. The schools will test the simulations, while NASA and SunTrax will test the product.

“This joint facility for research, development and testing of advanced transportation concepts will greatly increase our opportunities for faculty research and industry partnerships,” said Florida Polytechnic University President Randy Avent.

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