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The state will test trucks equipped with platooning technology along its Smart Mobility Corridor, and automated passenger vehicles will spend a year driving on rural roads.
Ohio has commenced two projects to test automated vehicles on its roadways, including on a 35-mile stretch of highway known as “the world’s most connected highway.”
One of the two deployments will feature two 53-foot tractor-trailers equipped with platooning technology, which allows the lead truck to control the speed and braking for the two vehicles so they can travel together closely at highway speeds.
Those trucks will be piloted on Ohio’s Route 33 Smart Mobility Corridor between the cities of Dublin and Marysville, a section of highway outfitted with fiber, roadside units and connected intersections designed to test smart and connected vehicles.
The platooning trucks will also use radar to detect other vehicles and react to the environment around them, allowing them to respond to slower moving traffic while they are platooning. For safety, a human driver will also be present, according to DriveOhio, the smart vehicle initiative within the Ohio Department of Transportation that is coordinating these projects.
The platooning pilot is expected to demonstrate increased fuel efficiency and reduced fuel consumption, as well as lowering the possibility of human error. In a statement, DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudhary said the two projects “will be used to refine the technology to maximize its potential.”
For the other initiative, three cars with automated driving systems controlling steering, acceleration and braking will spend a year traveling on divided highways and rural two-lane roads in Athens and Vinton counties. They will be tested in different environments, including in work zones and areas with limited visibility.
DriveOhio said safety drivers will also be present for this deployment, which will use high-definition maps of the routes that provide the AVs with information about the roadways and the environment surrounding them. The maps have been verified by professional drivers, and the vehicles have already been subject to “rigorous testing” at the Transportation Research Center's proving grounds in East Liberty, Ohio.
Officials hope this pilot will spur the use of AVs in rural communities, which have traditionally been underserved by the latest advances in technology. In a statement released by DriveOhio, Jay Wilhelm, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University, said it provides an “opportunity to test automated vehicles in rural areas and gather data to demonstrate the unique challenges and work towards solutions.”
Wilhelm said the goal is to use AVs to “bridge the technology gap in rural Appalachian communities so automated vehicles can improve quality of life throughout the region.”