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Roads to discovery: UF Transportation Institute opens new ‘living lab’

University of Florida Transportation Institute held a grand opening for its brand-new I-STREET Living Lab on Friday.

I-STREET, or Implementing Solutions from Transportation Research and Evaluation of Emerging Technologies, will give students an opportunity to get hands-on learning experience with researchers.

It will help the university “to develop, deploy and evaluate advanced transportation technologies to improve mobility and safety,” said Lily Elefteriadou, the director of the institute.

The $2 million state-of-the-art, 4,300-square-foot lab features a student village and traffic monitoring area, a traffic and signals lab and a three-bay vehicle lab and garage.

It’s not only a lab stationed in the confines of the UF campus, but connects surrounding roads on campus, Gainesville and across the state.

The I-STREET Lab was created to give students and researchers an easier way to work with their counterparts from other engineering disciplines, from mechanical to civil engineering.

“One of the unique things that we are trying to do with this space is to bring students and faculty from different departments together under the same roof,” said Pruthvi Manjunatha, the I-STREET Living Lab manager. “Right now, everybody works within their own department, but transportation by nature is very interdisciplinary. That means often we end up working with three or four different types of disciplines. It's good to have a common, collaborative space.”

Even before the opening of the lab, UFTI and students and researchers have been working on a variety of projects, such as the research and development of autonomous vehicles, smart devices and sensors.

“We work a lot with data and data analytics, it’s a major area for us. We’re also working on occupational therapy type projects from the perspective of the drivers or the travelers,” Elefteriadou said.

The facility is the fruition of a multi-year collaboration between the UFTI, Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Gainesville, beginning back in 2017 when the Florida Department of Transportation funded a project to plan the lab.

After the initial plans were drawn up back in 2018, the team behind the living lab searched for funding, then COVID-19 and supply chain issues hindered progress.

With the I-STREET Living Lab now open, students, researchers and faculty expect to further develop and deploy new and innovative transportation technology.

“I-STREET just doesn't represent just this lab space, but it represents more two hundred miles of road network all over Florida with all of these technologies. You can say I-STREET is where technology meets the road,” said Manjunatha.

Máté is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing