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Three States Agree to Collaborate on Autonomous Vehicles

January 23, 2017, by Steven Martinez - Also by this author

Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Photo: Deborah Lockridge

Transportation agencies in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan have formed the Smart Belt Coalition that will focus on automated and connected vehicle initiatives.

Among the coalition's aims is to look at "commercial freight opportunities in testing, including platooning (connecting more than one vehicle) and potential coordination on interstates."

The coalition, which includes transportation and academic partners, seeks to support research, testing, policy, funding pursuits and deployment of technologies. The partnership will also share data and provide opportunities for private-sector testers.

"I'm excited for us to continue our efforts in fostering safe and effective development of this technology," said Leslie S. Richards, PennDOT secretary. "This multi-state partnership not only offers fantastic collaboration opportunities, but will also bring some consistency to testing scenarios that will help the private sector as they develop these technologies."

With similar climates, truck traffic, and active work on these technologies going in the three participating states, the coalition is designed to act as a resource for both government and the private sector.

The coalition is developing a strategic plan that will initially focus on connected and automated work zones, the aforementioned commercial freight opportunities in testing, and incident management.

“We’ve been working with U.S. DOT, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Governor's office for a while on initiatives regarding autonomous vehicles," Tom Balzer, president and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association told HDT. "As far as a formalized coalition, it’s not surprising to me that they are working with the surrounding states to try to continue to advance this initiative."

Balzer said that a combination of testing conditions and talent at nearby universities makes the region an ideal location to test the technology. Also, some trucking companies in the state have proven to be early adopters of safety technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking that areprecursors to fully autonomous vehicle technology, and truck platoons have already been tested on the Ohio Turnpike.

“When you take a look at what the region can offer for the future of autonomous vehicle technology development, given our particular climate and the volume of freight and the volume of traffic that moves through those states, it’s not surprising that they’ve come together,” said Balzer. “We are ripe grounds for companies that are willing to accept technologies and are willing to put them in place."

Moving forward, the coalition will finalize a strategic plan outlining the framework for participants and opportunities for private-sector testers.

The coalition membership may expand in the future, but for now the participating agencies and universities include:

  • Pennsylvania: PennDOT, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and Carnegie Mellon University
  • Michigan: Michigan Department of Transportation and University of Michigan
  • Ohio: Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, The Ohio State University and Transportation Research Center

“This new coalition recognizes that automated and connected vehicle initiatives transcend state boundaries and spur emerging technologies," said Mark Compton, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. "Working together, we will be able to more effectively advance these emerging technologies for all motorists."

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