Dayton, Ohio (WDTN) — Self-driving cars are nothing new, but we may soon see them on the highway.
This is the result of an effort by DriveOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation. drive ohio announced a four-year, $8 million plan to bring self-driving semi trucks to the roads.
Officials refer to the 166-mile section of Interstate 70 between Indianapolis and Columbus as the “automation corridor.” They said they hoped their partnerships with transportation departments in Ohio and Indiana would help determine how automation would work in one of the busiest areas in the state.
A key reason for this collaboration with the State Department of Transportation is to see how the technology handles the Midwest’s unpredictable weather and how prepared the roads are.
“The goal of this project is to consider how this technology could scale in the future to potentially address the truck driver shortages we are seeing today, and how technology could be leveraged to fill labor shortages,” DriveOhio spokeswoman Breanna Badanes explained.
“The front truck controls the movement of the trailing truck, so the front truck controls acceleration and braking, and the trailing truck responds automatically. So when that technology is leveraged, the two follow each other pretty closely.”
The semi in this project is not self-driving, but it does have a driver inside. Semis will be tested on closed tracks and truck platoons will be run before making their public appearances.
If something goes wrong, the driver takes over and there are many safeguards in place to stop the automation.
Tom Milby, vice president of safety at Xenia’s trucking company Homerun, said the driver shortage might be resolved, but it would be better to have someone in the truck if something could go wrong.
“There are too many things,” Milby said. “Something like that happens. It’s so sudden, so fast, that I don’t know if computers can actually handle situations that humans can actually see and deal with.”
Milby added that automation won’t disrupt home run activity too much, but said full automation could come in the future.
DriveOhio hopes to have self-driving trucks on the roads as early as the end of the year or spring of 2024. Once the truck is deployed, he will be on the road for six months.
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