Sen. Mark Warner tours automotive research center specializing in driverless cars

Sen. Mark Warner about to test drive a semi-automated Tesla (Photo: Tola Adamson)

HALIFAX CO., Va. (WSET)-- A local organization specializing in researching and creating hi-tech cars of the future got a special visit from Senator Mark Warner on Tuesday.

He was at the Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation on the Virginia International Raceway campus in Halifax County. Warner learned all about how the center's research on tires and driverless cars makes an impact in our area. He said GCAPS is a gem on the Southside with the increasing interest in unmanned cars.

A driverless car used to be a thing of the future, but not anymore.

"Driverless cars have kind of come into the public's mindset in the last two or three years, but a lot of this has been in development for 20 plus years," Warner said.

It's been developing right here in Halifax County at GCAPS. It's where a lot of driver safety testing happens.

"We're capable of testing tires up to 200 miles an hour," said Kenny Eardner, tire engineer at GCAPS. "We can drive and brake the tires to simulate driving of an engine or applying the brakes.

It's also where prototypes for driverless cars are made.

"A manufacturer will come to us for a real early concept and we will build up sort of a prototype," said Tom Dingus, President of GCAPS, "We even instrument vehicles that are in production and see how people use them."

GCAPS attracts manufacturers from all over the world. That's something Warner said can give this area a promising future.

"Around $20 billion is going to be spent by the manufacturers on testing over he next five years," he said. "We want a lot of that testing and those jobs to be done right here in Virginia. We have the chance to be the Silicon Valley of unmanned vehicles."

GCAPS is affiliated with Virginia Tech and also has facilities in Blacksburg and Northern Virginia.

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