Ohio is investing $15 million to create a 35-mile smart highway test bed north of its capital, Columbus, for testing self-driving vehicles and other developing highway and transportation technologies.
Dubbed the “Smart Mobility Corridor,” the four-lane, limited-access Interstate 33 will be outfitted with fiber-optic cables to transmit data collected by wireless sensors situated alongside and embedded in the roadway. Work is slated to begin in May 2017.
- Otto Motors has used the corridor to test self-driving vehicles. The sensor technology will also be used to provide more frequent reporting on traffic, weather and road conditions. Additional project partners include Honda’s research and development arm and The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research.
Test sites for smart transit technology are springing up at major infrastructure projects across the country, including Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct and Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge. The bridge and tunnel crowd enjoys a decided advantage in deploying advanced sensors and the networks to support them, specifically definable real estate with a relatively small geographic footprint. Here, Ohio's Department of Transportation is taking the test bed concept the extra mile, ostensibly as one of the nation’s first proving grounds for autonomous vehicles.
In August, Uber purchased Otto and teamed up with Volvo on various self-driving proof-of-concept and R&D projects, including the 120-mile autonomous Budweiser Beer truck delivery made this past October in Coors Country on Interstate 25 in Colorado.
While autonomous vehicles on the construction job-site are still several years away, on-highway self-driving technology could impact building material supply chains by optimizing delivery routes for reduced fuel costs. Budweiser, for one, says self-driving trucks could save the beer maker $50 million per year from improved supply chain logistics.
Autonomous vehicles aren’t the only smart technology being developed for over-the-road transportation. The makers of a shotcrete formulation being used to protect U.S. military sites from electromagnetic attack are also leveraging their technology to melt snow and ice from highway surfaces.