Ohio Announces DOT Grant for Automated Driving Program

TRC Smartcenter demo
TRC SMARTCenter Demo by Ohio DOT

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded an Ohio-based team of industry, academic and community partners a $7.5 million grant to develop self-driving vehicles.

The grant, which the Ohio Department of Transportation announced Sept. 10, will be used to develop and deploy automated transportation systems on the state’s rural roads and highways.

DriveOhio and the Transportation Research Center (TRC) will lead a team of partners, including Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati, to test the safe integration of automated driving systems over four years.

TRC - SMARTCenter Demo from Ohio DOT on Vimeo.

DriveOhio operates within ODOT and ensures that state regulations and public policies accommodate the development of infrastructure and technology needed for smart mobility. The TRC is an independent facility with a 4,500-acre campus in East Liberty that serves as a testing ground for projects related to engineering, research and development, compliance and certification.

The grant was made possible through DOT’s Automated Driving System Demonstration grant program, which supports projects that are meant to generate data to inform rulemaking and encourage collaboration on automated driving systems. DOT plans to announce the full list of grant recipients Sept. 18.

“The award of this grant shows that Ohio continues to be at the center of this new transportation technology era,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in the ODOT press release. “Ohio is committed to being at the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle technology development.”

The total investment in this project will be $17.8 million: $7.5 million from the federal government and $10.3 million from the partners in matching funds.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said in the press release that the grant will support studies that focus on 32 counties in Ohio’s Appalachian region.

“This is a huge win for the state of Ohio,” Marchbanks said. “Although 97% of the nation is rural, and more than half of all U.S. traffic fatalities occur on rural roads, most of this testing to date in other states has been conducted in urban areas. The lessons we learn in Ohio can have enormous benefits for our own state and nationwide as we work to make our transportation system safer.”

The testing of automated driving systems will be conducted in various scenarios, ranging from day and night to paved and unpaved roads. Some testing will occur in work zones and during periods of limited visibility. According to ODOT, a driver will be behind the wheel at all times during testing in case human intervention is needed. In places of on-road testing, law enforcement officials will participate in pre-planning, and community meetings will be held to inform the public.

“At TRC, we are working every day with innovators to test and improve new technologies that increase highway safety, reduce traffic congestion and make the nation’s transportation system more efficient,” TRC President Brett Roubinek said. “This grant will help maintain Ohio’s leadership in advancing these technologies and help the federal government safely implement automated driving systems across the nation.”

Ohio has been a pioneer in the field of automated driving systems. ODOT and its partners created the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 connecting the TRC to Columbus. In July, the TRC opened its SMARTCenter, a testing facility dedicated to automated and connected vehicles.