The autonomous vehicle test track in Polk County, FL

Phase Two of the SunTrax vehicle testing site is currently underway, with plans to open in 2023.

Outdoor SunTrax automated car testing site in Lakeland, FL

Would you hitch a ride in an autonomous car?

Photo provided by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise

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Imagine a world where you could get a lift from a driver-less car or drive completely hands-free. That’s what the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise are working on at SunTrax, a 475-acre vehicle research + development facility located near Florida Polytechnic University.

Phase One of construction on the facility began in 2017, and Phase Two is now in progress. Here’s a look at what’s included in each phase:

🚗 Phase One

A 2.25-mile oval test track has been operational since 2019. It’s used to test autonomous vehicles and new toll technologies with four overhead toll gantries. The track is designed for high-speed travel up to 70 mph.

🚗 Phase Two

The 200-acre infield is the focus of Phase Two. This includes several testing environments, such as:

  • Geometry track with grade changes
  • Loop track with entrance + exit ramps and road construction/collision avoidance testing
  • Urban simulations using shipping containers that can be reconfigured like city buildings
  • Suburban and pick-up/drop-off areas that replicate airports, hotels, and more
  • Noise, vibration, and harshness testing areas with eight pavement surfaces
  • Technology pad
  • Wet test tracks

Phase Two also includes the Main Entry Campus, featuring flexible space for a 20,000-sqft conference center, classrooms, event space, and a full-service cafe. The infield will also house maintenance and workshop bays, plus a 75-ft observation tower to catch all the action happening in the tests.

The price tag on a project this large? $141.2 million. Phase Two is expected to be completed in 2023, when the infield will officially open for testing. Can’t wait until then to see the facility? Check out this 360 degree virtual tour before it opens next year.

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