The IndyStar is reporting that the self-driving semi-trucks could be hitting Indiana roads sooner than you think.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with its Ohio counterpart and an engineering company to operate partially automated semis on I-70 between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. A human driver will be in the vehicle and able to take control if needed, but otherwise, the truck will steer and control the speed by itself.
The INDOT spokesperson Scott Manning, notes that Indiana law does not permit fully autonomous vehicles on public roadways and the federal government has not yet set standards for it.
“The research being carried out, both here and in other states, is intended to inform the policy and standards discussion across the country,” Manning said.
Nearly $9 million, including $4.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be spent on the project. It is expected to begin early next year and last three years.
The Transportation Research Center, an Ohio engineering company that tests vehicles, will train drivers and review the interstate to see what changes may be necessary for automated vehicles, INDOT said. They’ll be looking at things all vehicles use, such as the visibility of signs and pavement markers, as well as factors such as internet network capacity along the route.
Fiber-optic lines and wireless roadway sensors may be added along the interstate as part of the project. INDOT said the technology provides real-time traffic counts and information about weather and road conditions.
Manning said this project will set itself apart by testing automation with private companies hauling real cargo on public roadways — as opposed to empty trucks on a test track. Truck manufacturers and trucking companies have not yet been identified, he said.
The Indiana Motor Truck Association, which represents the state’s trucking industry, said it supported the project. “Automated vehicle technologies have great potential to benefit the trucking industry,” Vice President Barbara Hunt wrote in an email to IndyStar.
“There seems to continually be a misperception that commercial trucks will operate without drivers,” she said. “Drivers will be in the trucks and will continue to have major roles in this industry.”
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