In September of 2015, USDOT selected New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) as the recipients of a combined $42 million in federal funding to pilot next-generation infrastructure and vehicle technology under the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program.
Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) will implement multiple connected vehicle applications in the Tampa Central Business District (CBD) to improve safety, mobility, and environmental impact of vehicle traffic. The project involves installing Onboard Units (OBUs) consisting of radios and computers in over 1600 vehicles (including private cars, buses, and streetcars) and Roadside Units (RSUs) in over 40 fixed locations at downtown intersections to enable ultra-fast vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication.
Installing OBUs in over 1600 privately and publicly-owned vehicles is a big job, requiring automotive expertise and experience with many different makes and models of vehicles. Installation includes placing the OBU itself in the vehicle’s trunk, replacing the rear-view mirror with a mirror that has the additional ability to display warnings, attaching two radio antennas and a Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna on the vehicle roof, connecting all these components with each other and with the car’s speaker for audible warnings., and test-driving the vehicle to check the installed components. The installations should be done in a professional setting with certified vehicle mechanics to prevent unintentional modifications or damage to participants’ vehicles.
The THEA Planning Director and CV Pilot Program Manager initiated discussion with nearby Hillsborough Community College (HCC) about the possibility of using their Master Mechanic Program facility and staff to install the OBUs. The resulting program will use staff Instructors and paid intern students trained and coordinated with THEA’s OBU vendor to perform installations in multiple, professional auto bays. It is a win/win situation, with benefits to the CV program, the Tampa Bay community and the THEA CV Pilot:
- Master Mechanic students must complete a 6-month paid internship to graduate from the associate degree program – this meets their requirement.
- These graduates will be joining dealerships where future connected and automated vehicles will be serviced, bringing their CV awareness and new skill sets to the Tampa Bay workforce.
- Master Mechanic input to installation process reduces risk to Pilot.
- Use of paid student interns reduces labor cost.