New Collaboration Boosts Research into Autonomous Vehicles

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) will soon have access to a real-life environment to test smart city technologies and autonomous vehicles, thanks to the institute’s recent collaboration with Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners and Delta Air Lines.

A rendering of the autonomous vehicle test track at Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. (Image credit: Peachtree Corners)

Announced on September 5th, 2019, the partnership will enable Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation initiative of Georgia Tech to provide seed funding from Delta Air Lines for projects across campus. The scientists will test their technologies and concepts in Curiosity Lab’s living laboratory located in Peachtree Corners.

This is a wonderful example of industry-university-local government coming together to advance innovative solutions to the built environment and mobility. Providing access to such infrastructure will help our researchers test new technologies and further our mission of serving our community through innovation.

Debra Lam, Managing Director, Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation, Georgia Tech

Curiosity Lab’s 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle test track forms the backbone of this collaboration. The track is owned by the city and includes a dedicated fiber-optic data network, smart infrastructure such as connected traffic lights, 5G mobile data connectivity, as well as an operations center that allows investigators to monitor data from all the connected sensors and devices on the autonomous vehicle test track.

The test track, located in a commercial office park in Peachtree Corners, just northeast of Atlanta, enables interaction with vehicles and people going about their everyday lives.

Our 5G-enabled living laboratory will give Georgia Tech researchers the opportunity to push the frontier of emerging technology in a real-world setting that is almost impossible to replicate in a closed lab,” stated Betsy Plattenburg, executive director of Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. “Curiosity Lab also will provide those researchers an opportunity to collaborate with other industry leaders and focus their research on immediate challenges and results.”

According to Gil West, Chief Operating Officer of Delta Air Lines, it may appear to be counterintuitive for the airlines to show an interest in cars, specifically the driverless variety, but the developments emerging from this collaboration may benefit both staff and customers.

Driving the leading edge of emerging technology means Delta can help shape how industry adopts it. Autonomous vehicle technology is one of those innovations we see as having the potential to improve employee safety, the customer experience and operational performance, and this partnership will help us explore all of those possibilities.

Gil West, Chief Operating Officer, Delta Air Lines

As research on autonomous vehicles advances globally, Delta Air Lines envisages promising applications for self-driving buses, cars, or trucks at airports and beyond. For instance, self-driving vehicles may help airline personnel to transport aircraft components to airports or enable them to deliver delayed baggage to customers. They may also help customers to make tight connections across an airport.

According to West, this partnership represents a major part of the global airline’s plan to invest in solutions that empower both staff and customers, reduce travel stress, and revolutionize the future of flying.

The partnership builds on the autonomous mobility and infrastructure work of Georgia Tech spanning the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the Office of Parking and Transportation Services, the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, and Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation.


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