Testing automated trucks and passenger vehicles in rural Ohio
DriveOhio's Automated Driving Systems project will demonstrate how connected and automated semi trucks and passenger vehicles could improve safety for drivers, passengers, and other travelers in rural settings.
While automated driving systems have been tested in urban areas, there is much yet to learn regarding how automated vehicles operate in rural environments. As a microcosm of the U.S., Southeast Ohio serves as the ideal testbed to collect data due to its four-season climate and a diverse landscape of level and steep terrain.
Transportation challenges are magnified in rural areas like Appalachian Ohio. Lack of public transit options, longer travel distances, and limited internet access are just a few of the hurdles. Roadway challenges for automated vehicles include moving from shaded areas under tree canopies to bright sunlight, for example, and limited sight distances around curves or over hills.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded the $7.5 million ADS Demonstration Grant to the DriveOhio-led team of the Transportation Research Center (TRC), JobsOhio, AutonomouStuff, University of Cincinnati (UC), Bosch, and Ohio University (OU). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) is administering the grant.
Demonstration findings will help define technology needs and limitations as well as inform the safe scaling of future vehicle automation deployments in the U.S.
Why Rural Ohio?
- Microcosm of the U.S.
- Current trends focus on urban and standalone highway deployments
- 97% of land is rural nationwide
- 19% of U.S. population is in rural areas
- 54% of roadway fatalities occur on rural roadways (2.4x that of urban areas)
Teaming with Transportation Research Center, Bosch, and a yet to be named host fleet partner, DriveOhio will test partial, Level 2 truck automation technology, including “platoons” where two tractor trailers travel closely together. They will use wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to ensure safe operation. Trucks with Level 2 automation can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating, but a driver sits in the tractor seat and can take control at any time.
Each tractor trailer will have an engaged operator at all times to oversee safety and functionality and to drive when the two trucks are not in platooning mode.
Data will be collected while platooning or in single tractor mode as the automated trucks operate on rural highways in various weather conditions. This will help researchers understand how automated trucks perform in real-world situations.
Passenger Vehicle Automation
DriveOhio will also test connected and automated passenger vehicles in Athens and Vinton counties. Three passenger vehicles equipped with AutonomouStuff technology and V2V communication will have Level 3 automation. Level 3 autonomy means the vehicles can make informed decisions for themselves, such as accelerating past a slow-moving vehicle, but they still require a human override.
Data will be collected as the automated vehicles operate on divided highways and rural two-lane roads between Athens and McArthur. They will be tested in differing operating and environmental conditions, including periods of limited visibility and in work zones. A driver will be behind the wheel at all times to monitor operations and intervene as needed.
Data collection and analysis is critical to the success of Ohio’s ADS project. DriveOhio, ODOT, TRC, UC and OU will collect data iteratively in two forms: continuous stream and event data. The project team will apply insights from testing to identify gaps and select new scenarios and routes for subsequent tests.
Managed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ADS demonstration will:
- Solicit input from local, regional and state officials to identify potential connected and automated vehicle operational, enforcement and educational challenges that could affect Southeastern Ohio’s rural roads and highways – and similar areas across the U.S.
- Test the safe operation of automated tractor trailers and Ford transit vans on a mix of rural routes with hilly terrain, twisting roads, a variety of tree canopies and limited internet connectivity.
- Collect, analyze and report data to the FMCSA, USDOT to develop ADS policies that improve safety and benefit rural regions in Ohio and across the nation.
- Share lessons learned to remove barriers to the safe integration of ADS technologies across the U.S., particularly in rural areas.