Published: April 02, 2015 | Concord, CA
Honda Motor Co. and a major insurance company have signed agreements to use the self-driving automobile test track at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station for developing automated and connected vehicle technologies. Last year, Mercedez Benz also carried out the similar test at same place.
The Japanese automaker plans to test its self-driving Acura RLX sedan at the former military base, which includes about 20 miles of paved roadways, tunnels, parking lots, freeway underpasses, railroad crossings and streets laid out like a city grid. Mercedes-Benz also is testing its self-driving vehicles at the 2,100-acre “GoMentum Station,” which transportation authority officials say is the nation’s largest secure testing facility.
The transportation authority announced the partnership with Honda and formally introduced the GoMentum Station project during a conference in Concord on Tuesday on self-driving cars and vehicles equipped with technology to communicate with one another.
In addition to becoming a research and testing hub for emerging transportation technology, the goals for GoMentum Station include promoting economic growth, luring smart jobs, enhancing road safety and creating an efficient, seamless transportation system in Contra Costa County. To that end, the agency is pursuing partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including automakers, researchers, insurance companies and tech firms.
Neither the Navy nor Concord is receiving money from the automakers for the use of the weapons station. The transportation authority has a renewable license from the Navy to use the property, which will be turned over to the city of Concord for redevelopment beginning in early 2016. Infrastructure construction is scheduled to begin the following year.
The Bay Area quickly is becoming the epicenter for new automotive research — both in driverless cars and vehicles outfitted with wireless technology that allows them to communicate with other cars and traffic signals to reduce accidents and congestion. In January, Nissan and NASA announced a five-year partnership to develop and test self-driving vehicles at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Google also is developing its own automated vehicle technology.
In addition to providing a smoother, less stressful commute, smart cars also are intended to make the roads safer.
Although traffic fatalities have declined in the last few years, about 33,000 people died in vehicle collisions in 2013, according to Kenneth Leonard, director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office.