The state of Florida took another step towards its goal of promoting, developing and implementing automated vehicle (AV) technology, with its Third Annual Florida Automated Vehicles summit, held Dec. 1-2 in Jacksonville.

“We are a national leader in AV technology, and we want to remain that way,” said Richard Biter, assistant secretary of intermodal systems development with the Florida Dept. of Transportation. By seeking to help write the future rules of the road, Biter adds, the state of Florida “won’t have to respond to somebody else’s rules.” More than 350 government officials, transportation agency representatives, academics and private-sector industry members attended the two-day event, which focused on the potential of automated vehicles to improve safety, mobility and economic opportunities.

Officials in Florida, and around the nation, see numerous potential benefits, including accident prevention, a reduction in traffic congestion, more efficient freight movement, as well as the increased ability to assist people with mobility issues, such as seniors.

“We understand that semi-autonomous vehicles and connected vehicle communications are likely to be commonplace within the next 5-10 years,” Biter added, via an FDOT press release. “In response, we are engaging transportation industry stakeholders statewide to gain a shared understanding of the impacts so that, together, we can create the framework for implementation of automated vehicle technologies.”

State politicians evidently are seeing the coming future transportation transformation as well.

“Radical change is coming,” noted Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), who chairs the Florida Senate’s transportation committee. That change may arrive sooner than many motorists may imagine, FDOT added. Cadillac, the agency noted, currently plans to include vehicle-to-vehicle communications in its 2017 model CTS, enabling the car to receive information about the speed and location of other vehicles while also alerting drivers of impending problems.

On the summit’s second day, participants demonstrated the use of AVs designed for use on land, air and water. For instance, Mike Marrinan, with Aviation Systems Engineering Co., used a scale-model bridge to demonstrate the use of an aerial drone to perform regular maintenance inspections. The summit marked the first time that land-, air- and water-based AVs had been demonstrated at a single outside event in the United States, says Brent Klavon, president of the Florida Peninsula chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Klavon added that the increased use of AVs “is going to save time, lives and money.”

The event, hosted by the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers, came just days ahead of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Dec. 7 announcement of its Smart City Challenge. According to USDOT, the effort will challenge cities across the nation to put forward “bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier and more reliable.”

The competition will result in the award of up to $40 million in funding, and other federal resources, to one medium-sized city. Vulcan, a company founded by former Microsoft executive Paul Allen, will offer an additional $10 million to the winning city in support of electric vehicle infrastructure.

In its announcement, USDOT noted: “Ideally, the winning city will view intelligent transportation systems, connected vehicles and automated vehicles as the next logical step in its existing, robust transportation infrastructure. It should also aim to have critical systems in vehicles and infrastructure that communicate with each other, allow for active citizen participation, and integrate new concepts that leverage the sharing economy.”