COLUMBUS, Ohio – A self-driving truck will begin travelling on two Ohio roads next week after state officials announce details of new investments to support innovative transportation technology.
A vehicle from self-driving truck maker Otto will travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 on Monday in central Ohio between Dublin and East Liberty, home to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility. It will travel in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck will be positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said, adding that “safety is obviously number one.”
Officials say that section of Route 33 — a four-lane, divided road — is an important piece of autonomous vehicle research in the state and will become a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year. Gov. John Kasich is scheduled to discuss details of that investment and other efforts to support autonomous vehicle research on Monday before the truck hits the road.
“Certainly we think it’s going to be one of the foremost automotive research corridors in the world,” Bruning said.
The self-driving truck is also expected to travel next week on part of the Ohio Turnpike, though Bruning said he couldn’t yet detail when or where.
The turnpike’s executive director said in August that officials were moving toward allowing testing of self-driving vehicles on the 241-mile toll road, a heavily travelled connector between the East Coast and Chicago.
Kasich has pushed for Ohio to be a leader in the fast-advancing testing and research of autonomous vehicles. State officials say Ohio is well-positioned for such a role for many reasons, including a significant presence from the automotive industry in the state, partnerships with university researchers, and the seasonal weather changes that enable testing a variety of driving conditions in one place.