The Future of Automated Cars and Advancing Technology in Williamson County

Transit authorities met at the 19th annual Williamson County Growth Summit, held on Thursday, attempting to shift discussions from their usual spotlight on the city of Austin to problems inflicted on the region’s suburbs. Experts from a number of organizations in the transit sector such as CTRMA, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Texas Internal Affairs, RideScout LLC, and ArgoDesign met to discuss how technology is changing the transportation industry both around Austin and globally.

For the past 15 years, CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein has been working to maintain and improve transportation infrastructure around Austin. He noted that advances in technology such as driverless vehicles and ridesharing applications could have a huge impact on transportation infrastructure. He added that the Austin area should invest in transportation capabilities, especially when it comes to roadways and smart road systems. He believes this to be the only solution to a rapidly increasing population with focused growth in suburbs like Williamson County.

Jared Filkin from ArgoDesign reinforced that flexibility would be key in regards to both building and land-use codes in order to adapt to future transportation needs. He further explained that parking garages and roads would still be required even with the advent of automated cars. The only changes would be that the garages themselves would need to be more efficiently designed to charge, service, and store vehicles. These design changes do not currently fit in any building codes, thus codes would also need to be updated.

Driverless cars were the topic of the day and while Heiligenstein welcomes the new technology, he believes the process will be slow. He added that improvements to mass transit alone will not be enough to meet increased demands, so roadway advances will still be required. He predicts that 12 lane highways will become the norm on both U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 290.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) is an independent government agency created in 2002 with the goal of modernizing regional transportation in Central Texas. CTRMA is working towards a multi-modal transportation system capable of meeting requirements of the rapidly expanding region.

Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director of CTRMA located in Austin, Texas. Mike, a public official for 23 years, has been with CTRMA since its birth. He has overseen the implementation of an all-electronic cashless toll collection system and is currently working on six other planned roadways around the area.