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June 17, 2020 12:00 PM, EDT

FHWA Grant Supports Automated Truck Corridor on Interstate 70

Interstate 70 signThe portion of Interstate 70 that runs between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, for about 175 miles is the focus of the project. (cosmonaut/Getty Images)

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A team of partners including the Indiana and Ohio departments of transportation has been awarded a federal grant of $4.4 million in support of an automated truck corridor.

The Federal Highway Administration announced the funding June 16. The award was made possible through the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment grant program, which funds the early deployments of technologies that are meant to improve transportation systems.

Besides INDOT and ODOT, the team includes the Transportation Research Center and DriveOhio. The Transportation Research Center is an independent facility with a 4,500-acre campus in East Liberty, Ohio, that serves as a research and development hub and testing ground for vehicles. DriveOhio, which is supported by ODOT, ensures that state regulations and public policies accommodate the development of infrastructure and technology needed for smart mobility.

Interstate 70 between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. The road stretches from Utah to Maryland. (Google Maps)

The funding will support the Interstate 70 Truck Automation Corridor project, which will involve the deployment of smart logistics technology along a segment of I-70 between Indianapolis and Columbus. I-70 is a major east-west corridor that runs from Utah to Maryland.

Indiana DOT announces funding for local projects.

McGuinness

“Connected and autonomous driving technology is revolutionizing how we move people and products across our country,” INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness said. “Indiana and Ohio are proud to partner with U.S. DOT to lead in the deployment of technology in a multistate highway corridor that will guide the future of automated driving and freight movement.”

Specifically, the project will allow freight companies and truck automation vendors to use partially automated driving technology in daily operations on this stretch of I-70 between the cities, which spans about 175 miles.

Luke Stedke, managing director of communications at DriveOhio, explained that the project will involve three deployments —truck platooning, SAE Level 2 and SAE Level 4 — in a tiered approach over four years. SAE International categorizes driving automation on a scale with levels between 0 and 5. Level 5, the highest classification, refers to complete driving automation.

Luke Stedke, managing director of communications at DriveOhio

Stedke

“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,” Stedke told Transport Topics.

The Transportation Research Center will offer driver training for host fleets and conduct an “automation audit” of I-70 as safety measures, according to a notice from INDOT. Stedke said the purpose of the audit will be to identify needed road improvements by assessing aspects such as striping and pavement conditions.

RELATED: DOT Launches AV TEST Initiative

During road testing, a driver will be at the wheel in the event human intervention is needed. The data gathered from the project will be shared with U.S. DOT officials to inform policy development and procedures.

Indiana and Ohio are important states for freight movement. According to INDOT, the states are within a day’s drive of 60% of the populations of U.S. and Canada. Stedke identified the project as a way for the partners to educate the public about automated technology.

RoadSigns

COVID-19 has placed significant strain on many freight networks. So how are third-party logistics providers adapting to meet these challenges? Host Seth Clevenger chats with two 3PL executives who have had firsthand experience contending with this crisis. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.  

“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,” Stedke said. “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.”

The $4.4 million awarded for the I-70 truck corridor represents a small portion of the $43.4 million FHWA awarded as part of the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment grants. The largest individual grant, for $10 million, was awarded to Florida DOT for the I-4 Florida’s Regional Advanced Mobility Elements (FRAME) project. This integrated corridor management project spans from Tampa to Orlando.

Another grant, totaling about $6.8 million, was distributed to Hawaii DOT for implementing cellular vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology.

“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,” Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason said.

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