Controlled Testing Success Leads to New Opportunities in Testing Autonomous Vehicles in Regular Public Airport Traffic and Commuter Lots
(Hanover, MD) – Testing of autonomous vehicle parking by the company STEER Tech will begin later this month in the hourly garage at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and a nearby commuter lot, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced today. Drivers in the testing area should continue to operate their vehicles safely and normally, and pedestrians should continue to observe caution and proceed safely as in any other environment. Additionally, MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) will launch a pilot study to test the feasibility of self-parking cars at the Dorsey Run MARC Train Station beginning in May.
“MDOT is a national leader in using innovation to make our transportation network easier to use,” said MDOT Secretary Pete K. Rahn. “Delivering a system that parks your car for you is perfect for BWI Marshall - an easy-come, easy-go airport.”
In 2015, Secretary Rahn established the Maryland Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Working Group to evaluate how the technology can enhance public safety and support businesses. The collaborative team of industry, government, education and private and public-sector agencies and organizations serve as the central location for the evaluation and deployment for testing CAV technology in Maryland.
“With over a year of successful testing at BWI Marshall, STEER has demonstrated the robustness of our technology, proving its effectiveness in all seasons and weather conditions and the immense benefits that can be realized,” said CEO Anuja Sonalker. “We believe that innovations like our autonomous parking solution will help travelers save time and allow for a more enjoyable airport experience.”
In 2018, STEER evaluated its autonomous vehicle system in a closed course at BWI Marshall Airport. During that initial phase of testing, there were zero accidents and no safety-critical disengagements. MDOT issued the first permits to STEER for testing at parking lots owned by MDOT in June 2017. New permits are for the current round of tests. The efforts place BWI Marshall on the global technology map as one of the first major airports to pilot autonomous vehicle technologies in public parking facilities.
“Connected and autonomous vehicle technology can enhance safety for both drivers and pedestrians,” said MDOT Motor Vehicle Administrator and CAV Working Group Co-Chair Chrissy Nizer. “Pilot projects, such as the one conducted by STEER, allow us to evaluate all potential impacts. We are always striving to enhance the transportation experience for our customers and save lives. This new technology is a key way to achieve those goals.”
In mixed-use testing at BWI Marshall Airport, clearly-marked autonomous STEER cars will operate like regular vehicles around traditional driver-operated vehicles and pedestrians. STEER operators will remain in the vehicles during testing. Signage will be posted at the airport to indicate the specific testing locations. The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA) has a toll-free line, 1-855-727-5294, to address any questions or concerns about the CAV testing.
“At BWI Marshall Airport, our goal is to provide a convenient, efficient travel experience for our customers,” said Executive Director Ricky Smith. “STEER Tech is bringing automated vehicle technology to the marketplace. We believe that innovations like this autonomous parking solution will help travelers save time and allow for a more enjoyable airport experience.”
MDOT MTA’s CAV pilot will be conducted in the Dorsey Run MARC Station parking lot and will test STEER’s “Automated Valet Parking” (AVP) technology.
“We are proud to collaborate with a Maryland firm on cutting-edge technology like automated parking vehicles and expect it will help increase use of public transit in the not too distant future,” said MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn. “AVP provides a promising solution to some of the challenges presented by parking in our commuter lots.”
Transit customers who use large commuter parking lots will benefit from the AVP technology by allowing their cars to drive themselves to parking spaces, keeping commuters from having to walk long distances. AVP-equipped vehicles would also be able to drive themselves from their parking spots back to the station where drivers would be waiting on the station platform.
The pilot at the Dorsey Run MARC station is funded, in part, by the Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Grant.