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For the inaugural SAE Demo Day in Tampa, FL, participants traveled on a public freeway in a fully-autonomous (SAE Level 4) vehicle developed by Perrone Robotics. (SAE)

SAE brings autonomy to the public in new demonstration program

With a first-of-its-kind program that allows the public to experience traveling in a fully-automated (SAE Level 4) vehicle, SAE International was in Tampa, Florida in early May for its inaugural SAE Demo Day to gauge the public’s reaction to—and attitudes about—self-driving technology.

The Demo Day program is believed to be the first broad-based educational initiative designed to give the public hands-on (or is it “hands-off”?) exposure to fully-automated vehicles by providing demonstration rides. For this first event near Tampa, an SAE Level 4 vehicle developed by Perrone Robotics drove participants on a specially-cordoned section of Tampa’s Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

Participants also experienced the Velodyne LiDAR Virtual Reality environment and interacted with a self-driving car developed by Voyage.

“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,” said Frank Menchaca, SAE International Chief Product Officer. “This Demo Day brings the most important audience to the dialogue—the public.”

Important impressions

With the Demo Day initiative, SAE International hopes to better understand evolving public attitudes about self-driving technology and the experience of traveling in an automated vehicle. Riders are asked questions before, during and after the ride about their perceptions of and comfort level with autonomous vehicles.

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) and Florida state senator Jeff Brandes also partnered with SAE to conduct the event to the Tampa area, where media and civic officials also took part in the approximately six-minute rides in the Perrone Robotics vehicle.

“THEA is excited to welcome SAE International to Tampa and to be able to partner with them on this event.  From our real-time testing of connected vehicle technology to our award-winning reversible express lanes, THEA continues to drive the conversation on cutting-edge transportation solution for the Tampa Bay region,” said THEA CEO Joe Waggoner.

Mircea Gradu, Velodyne’s SVP Quality and Validation and SAE International President, said, “At Velodyne LiDAR, we’re very excited to support this event; it is extremely relevant for the progress of autonomous driving. We take great interest in educating the public and contributing to the general understanding of the technology and its multiple benefits.”

And Perrone Robotics CMO Dave Hofert added, “We are very pleased to support SAE International in this effort. Our company mission is to enable broad-based autonomous mobility of all kinds and we believe that public engagement will drive awareness and acceptance of these vehicles. Through this demo, people will experience autonomous driving and can better make informed decisions about how autonomy could fit into their lives.”

City or regional officials interested in conducting a Demo Day event in their area can contact SAE International’s Marcie Hineman at:
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