NC State’s driverless car could help ease commuting traffic in Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A self-driving car could eliminate about 5,000 students commuting by car through Raleigh.

It’s been in the works for years at N.C. State University.

Engineering student William Joel Smith said his blood, sweat and tears have gone in to the new ecoPRT prototype.

“I spent probably 100 of hours easily,” said Smith

When CBS North Carolina first reported on this autonomous vehicle in 2015 – it looked a little different.

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“We kind of just took what little we had threw it together and it generated a lot of interest,” said Seth Hollar.

Hollar and his students are testing a smaller version of the two person self-driving car and are getting financial backing.

“We received a grant from NCDOT to build a handful of these vehicles and do a pilot program right here on N.C. State’s campus” said Hollar.

The plan is to have the 30-inch vehicles riding on three-feet wide paths.

By next fall, they plan to build a section on campus to transport students between two buildings and collect more data.

They hope those findings will inspire a company to invest in a similar project at RTP

Unlike other options, Hollar said EcoPRT is much cheaper and faster to build.

“What you’re trying to do is create infrastructure with return on investment in 2-3 years. So suddenly the motivation changes. You can measure where demand is quickly before a light rail or highway project,” said Hollar.

Along with the NCDOT’s $300,000 grant, RTP has also invested $165,000 in grant money in ecoPRT.

Hollar estimates a completed car and trail system would cost about $10 million to complete.

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