Self-driving cars, boats, and even drones have been on display this week in Jacksonville as part of the Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, a conference that’s designed to help Florida take the lead in driverless cars.

If Florida is out in front, that means those cars — and those technology jobs — could come to Florida, first.

At this week’s summit, a program that’s about to start right here in Tampa was the star of the show. Everybody was talking about how streets in Downtown Tampa, along with a section of the Selmon Expressway, are going to be upgraded to “smart roads.”

That means the traffic signals will “talk” electronically, instantly, to sensors along the roads, and to some of the cars, too.

The roads themselves can warn cars of dangerous situations, tell a driver a lane ahead is blocked, or even keep a green light going for a few extra seconds to shorten everybody’s drive time.

A section of Downtown Tampa and the Selmon Expressway will test this “connected vehicles” technology, which will eventually spread all over the country.

Tampa’s project was one of the highlights of the Florida Automated Vehicles Summit the Florida Department of Transportation held this week in Jacksonville.

Companies and universities showed off cargo trucks and even military Humvees that let a computer do the driving. It’s the first time in the world that autonomous vehicles operating on land, in the air, and on the water had ever been demonstrated together at a single outdoor event.

The goal is to make sure Florida is a national leader in automated vehicles and, ultimately, save the lives of 30,000 Americans killed in car crashes every year.



Florida holds driverless car summit