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Atlanta’s North Avenue eyed as driverless-car corridor

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Connecting Georgia Tech with the Beltline and PCM, the six-lane corridor is ideal for a pilot program, backers say

Seen here, North Avenue, stretching from Old Fourth Ward toward Midtown and downtown, could soon be a smart corridor.
North Avenue, stretching from Old Fourth Ward toward Midtown and downtown, could soon be a smart corridor.
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North Avenue serves as the dividing line between Midtown and downtown, stretching between Georgia Tech and the Coca-Cola corporate campus on the west and the Beltline and Ponce City Market on the east.

For more than two miles, the road cuts a six-lane swath straight across the heart of Atlanta — a rare attribute in a city filled with winding and narrow roads.

Now, work is underway to transform the street into a “smart corridor” with upgraded lighting, state-of-the-art traffic signals, and even embedded sensors that allow the road itself to “talk” to vehicles traversing it.

The AJC reports that these steps are just the beginning, with plans materializing to leverage the road’s attributes and connectivity for testing self-driving vehicles.

A range of hopefully participants — 13 at last count — is vying for the ability to run prototype autonomous vehicles along the road. A representative from the city told the AJC that the planned tests will be part of the Safer Roads Challenge, a worldwide initiative to prepare for coming technological changes.

Atlanta will be the only site in the country to participate in the challenge, thanks to support from a range of groups who see the city as cutting-edge in the push towards vehicular automation.

Autonomous vehicle tests are still a long way off, with conversion of the street into a “smart corridor” taking until at least September.

Until then, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.