Ohio is quickly emerging as the leader in self driving truck technology. The state was chosen by Otto, a start-up recently acquired by Uber to test its innovative self driving truck technology. And on November 30, 2016, Otto deployed a self driving truck that successfully navigated a 35-mile stretch of Route 33, a four-lane highway from Dublin to East Liberty, known as the Smart Mobility Corridor.
Whenever new technology is created it goes through a rigorous testing phase to get the “bugs” worked out before it is available in the marketplace. In order to test the safety and reliability of something as innovative as self driving trucks you need good roads with real traffic and a variety of weather conditions.
With its great roads and unique climate and topography traversing both urban and rural settings, Ohio is the best place in the country to test self driving technologies. “You want to test when it rains, you want to test when it snows, you want to test when it’s slippery. You have all of the ideal conditions, so in many respects, we’re ahead of everybody when it comes to the ability to develop and test [autonomous vehicles] in a real way,” said Gov. John Kasich.
But this didn’t happen by accident. The Transportation Research Center, a 4,500-acre independent automobile testing facility, is investing $100M to build out a 500-acre autonomous vehicle testing facility in its East Liberty testing grounds that is expected to become the autonomous vehicle testing hub of the country.
With the initial successful testing by Otto of the first self driving truck on Ohio roads, the state plans to invest $15 million for the installation of additional fiber optic cables and road sensors along the Smart Mobility Corridor. This will allow emerging autonomous vehicle technologies to be tested in the real-world with live traffic and weather conditions. “Data collected on this corridor will allow automotive innovators to test and refine jobs‑creating technologies that are going to help move people and products more safely and efficiently than ever before,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray.
Increased safety and more jobs are some of the reasons for a big push forward towards self driving trucks. Right now the truck driving industry is experiencing a driver shortage of 48,000 jobs which is expected to increase to 175,000 by 2024, according to the American Trucking Association. Also, driver fatigue is a big issue for both the driver and traveling motorists. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that approximately 4,000 people are killed in accidents each year involving large trucks and driver fatigue is cited as the leading cause. Self driving technology can help make the roads safer for everyone.
“Ohio wants to be the self driving technology hub and the state expects to attract innovative companies and additional public-private investment in the emerging autonomous vehicle technology,” noted Victor Bierman III, Ohio lawyer and business expert.
Image Credit: ODOT