A federal grant of $4.4 million has been given to a team including the departments of transportation from Indiana and Ohio for their efforts in building an automated truck corridor along Interstate 70, which runs between Indianapolis and Columbus.
This award is one of 10 given by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration through its Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment program, and will be part of $45 million in state-matching funds.
This particular project is meant to bring easier routes to truck automation vendors and freight companies to deploy their automated vehicle technology in regular revenue service across the interstate.
“Ohio’s I-70 Truck Automation Corridor project represents a model for other states in promoting technologies that will make freight transport and America’s economy more efficient,” said Nicole Nason, FHWA Administrator.
The ATCMTD grant program will fund beginning technology developments that aim to bring overall improvement to large transportation systems.
“As self-driving technology matures, it is important that everyone has a seat at the table,” said DriveOhio interim executive director, Patrick Smith. DriveOhio is a state government group helping to coordinate this project. “With the coalition of public, private, and research institutions that we have built, we’re confident this project will provide valuable insights to [the U.S. Department of Transportation] and [to the] industry as we develop smart logistics policies, procedures, and technology standards that will be shared across the nation.”
DriveOhio has also been urging Plus.ai, a self-driving truck company, to expand its in-state testing after previously conducting AV testing in Ohio.
“Connected and autonomous driving technology is revolutionizing how we move people and products across our country,” said Joe McGuinness, INDOT Commissioner. “Indiana and Ohio are proud to partner with U.S. DOT to lead in the deployment of technology in a multi-state highway corridor that will guide the future of automated driving and freight movement.”
DriveOhio’s managing director of communications, Luke Stedke, said the corridor project will have three different deployments: truck platooning, SAE Level 2, and SAE Level 4. This tiered approach will take place over a four-year span, with driving automation categorized on a scale between levels 0 and 5. Level 5 will mean the vehicle has reached complete driving automation capability.
“We want to make sure that it’s safe, but we also want to make sure that we’re trying to move the ball forward and mature the technology,” said Stedke.
In addition to DriveOhio, the project team also includes the Transportation Research Center, an independent facility out of Easy Liberty, Ohio that conducts research and progresses vehicle development and testing. TRC will provide professional driver training for host fleets as well as an automation audit of the corridor, according to DriveOhio.
“During public road testing, a professional driver will be at the wheel always should human intervention be needed,” DriveOhio explained. “The project data gathered will be shared with USDOT to inform the development of policies and procedures to be scaled across the United States.”
According to Stedke, the purpose of the automation audit will be to assess striping and pavement conditions in order to find what areas of I-70 need immediate improvements.
INDOT also says both Indiana and Ohio are vital for freight operations. Both states are within a day’s drive of 60% of American and Canadian populations.
Stedke also said this project will help everyone involved to get the word out about automated technology on a mass scale.
“It’s a chance for us as DriveOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation to start the conversation about what the public should expect when it comes to freight,” said Stedke. “Both for the states of Ohio and Indiana, freight is a big driver of our economic activity. We want to make sure that we’re being clear when we articulate with citizens of Ohio and Indiana what to expect.”
From the grant’s funding, Florida was the largest recipient, receiving $10 million for its Regional Advanced Mobility Elements project on Interstate 4. The project, nicknamed I-4 FRAME, will utilize “next-generation” traffic management and vehicle-to-infrastructure tech, so that drivers can receive real-time traffic, intersection signal timing, and weather-related messages.
“The program selections this year aim to benefit communities across the country by improving safety and efficiency on our roads through the deployment of advanced technologies,” said FHWA’s Nason.