Texas A&M to Play Part in Developing Autonomous Cars

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Pretty soon the cars we drive could drive themselves, and Texas A&M could have a big part in making that happen.

The Texas A&M System Board of Regents approved the Accelerate Texas Center Monday which will be located at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Its purpose is to speed up the process to make smarter cars a reality.

"If you're in a state that already has congestion growing at eight percent and you're looking at 15 million new Texans you've got to find some way to find a transportation system that can operate efficiently," Texas A&M Transportation Institute Agency Director Dennis Christiansen said.

Christiansen says technology is key.

Cars like a GM prototype drive themselves and decide when to change lanes and how to navigate busy roads. Then there are cars you drive that use radio waves to communicate with one another to avoid potential accidents.

The Accelerate Texas Center at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute will be a place where companies working on this technology can put their product to the test and into play.

"This is sort of the catalyst to bring technology from the concept stage to actually implementing it in the real world," Christiansen said.

The center will encourage companies nationwide to relocate to Texas, and that could have a big economic impact.

"We're going to be talking to every company involved with communications, technology and the auto industry. So it's easily 50 to 100 major companies that could relocate some or all of their facilities to Texas," Christiansen said.

The center is in its preliminary stages. The Texas Department of Transportation has contributed $1 million per year for two years to get the project started. After that the goal is for it to be self sustaining and some say the potential is as great as the area's biocorridor.

The Texas A&M University System will not be funding the center. Regents unanimously gave the Texas A&M Transportation Institute the go ahead to move forward with soliciting companies and raising money.