State testing self-driving cars in Ross and Pike counties



Last week, the Ohio Department of Transportation received a grant from the federal government that will allow 32 rural counties in the state to test self-driving cars, including Ross County; Pike County is also on the list.

Ohio’s already prominent role in the development of self-driving vehicles took a major leap forward with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s award of a $7.5 million grant to an Ohio-based team of industry, academia and community partners.

The other confirmed counties are Adams, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mahoning, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Scioto, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Vinton, and Washington.

The Automated Driving Systems Demonstration Grant will develop and deploy automated transportation solutions focused on Ohio’s rural roads and highways.

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

DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation, focused on automated and connected transportation technologies and the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) will lead an Ohio-based team of industry, academia and community partners. Other partners include The Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati. 

The four-year plan will test the safe integration of automated driving systems onto our nation’s on-roadways and look at potential economic impacts of this technology. With partners contributing $10.3 million in matching funds, the total investment in Ohio for this project will be $17.8 million. 

“This is a huge win for the state of Ohio. By focusing on 32 counties in Ohio’s rural Appalachian region, studies supported by this grant will be the most comprehensive effort yet to be conducted on our nation’s rural roads,” said Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“Although 97 percent 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.”

Testing of automated driving systems will be conducted in all seasons, day and night, as well as paved and unpaved roads. Some testing will also occur during periods of limited visibility and in work zones. A driver will be behind the wheel at all times should human intervention be needed. In regions where on-road testing is to take place, local officials take part in pre-planning and community meetings will be held in advance to inform the public. These deployments will be coordinated by academic partners and lead by the TRC. 

“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. 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,” said TRC president and CEO Brett Roubinek.More than 70 projects nationwide had competed for a total of $60 million in grants. 

Derek Myers is the editor-in-chief of the Guardian. In addition to overseeing the editorial content for the publication, he is a television news reporter and show host. Prior to joining the Guardian full-time, Derek was a Public Information Officer for a county Sheriff and spent the last decade reporting news around the country for local network news affiliates.