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Chamber of Commerce members test drive autonomous vehicles, glimpse one future of transit


Chamber of Commerce members test drive autonomous vehicles, glimpse one future of transit

PHOTO: From left, John Bearden, a sales associate with Andrews Cadillac, Williamson Inc. President and CEO Matt Largen, and Tom Tunnicliffe pose after riding in an autonomous vehicle on Wednesday, June 13, 2018.//Brooke Wanser

By BROOKE WANSER

Williamson Countians caught a glimpse of the future Wednesday morning by test driving partially autonomous cars during an event hosted by Williamson, Inc.

On June 19, Williamson, Inc. is sponsoring a program where local and regional leaders will gather at the Cool Springs Marriott to discuss the best solutions to the constant plague of traffic congestion, and what comes next after the transit vote. Technology is seen as one piece of the puzzle.

At Andrews Cadillac in Brentwood, dozens gathered to hear Tim Carter, the assistance service manager, explain the progression from cruise control to the partially autonomous feature Cadillac now offers in their cars.

Carter said Cadillac had mapped out 130,000 miles of Interstates across the United States on which their super cruise will work.

It does not work, Carter explained, when traveling under 40 miles per hour or on a start-and-stop highway, like Mack Hatcher Parkway.

Super cruise will be available on all Cadillac models beginning in 2020, but for now, it is a $5,000 add on.

In the traffic-snarled Nashville area, Carter said such a technology could prove especially useful.

On the Interstate, a driver in the 2018 CT6 Sedan presses two buttons to set cruise control, then Super Cruise.

A green light flashes when the system takes over. Drivers can take their hands from the wheel, but facial software will detect when they take their eyes off the road for more than a few seconds. The light will flash red, and the steering wheel will buzz in warning.

The system is mapped to know the curves of the road, and will react accordingly if a car in front speeds up or slows down.

Williamson Inc. President and CEO Matt Largen said such a vehicle might be useful in dealing with traffic congestion that results from bad weather and car wrecks.

Largen said the technology could help cut down on accidents caused by human error, and might allow more cars to move more safely on the Interstate.

“It’s part of a long term solution to traffic,” he said. “Another piece is certainly going to be a mass transportation system, as well.”

But, Carter said, “you’re not George Jetson.”

Fully autonomous vehicles, where a driver could work from an iPad while behind the wheel, “that’s pretty far away.”

Check out a video of the car below.

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