Graphic: Indiana DOT
061920 Ohio Indiana I70 Freight Corridor

Ohio and Indiana team up to create freight corridor of the future

June 19, 2020
A federal grant will help the states and private trucking technology companies lay the groundwork for smart roadways that feature autonomous trucks and smart logistics between Columbus and Indianapolis.

Ohio and Indiana are teaming up to strengthen how automated driving technology moves freight between Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis. The two states’ departments of transportation were just awarded matching federal grants for the I-70 Truck Automation Corridor Project.

The project would use smart logistics solutions along the 175-mile stretch of I-70 between the two state capitals. Leaders from both states are touting the multistate approach, which also includes participation from technology providers, truck manufacturers, regional logistics councils and freight companies. With those partners contributing $4.5 million in matching funds, nearly $9 million will be invested in the corridor.

“This project is going to be focusing on platooning demonstrations and understanding of what sort of work needs to be done by the state highway transportation agencies to prepare for truck automation,” Pam Fisher, the economic development director for the Indiana DOT, explained during a Purdue University-hosted webinar about advancing driver-centric automation. 

Fisher said it’s the job of the state agencies to create a path for transportation technology companies to use automation to make freight more efficient. She praised the work of companies such as Peloton Technologies, which has partnered with her agency and Purdue to create the next generation of platooning.

The project allows freight companies and truck automation vendors to deploy partially automated trucks on I-70 between Columbus and Indianapolis. To ensure the safe deployment of these technologies on public roads, the Ohio-based Transportation Research Center (TRC) will offer professional driver training for participating fleets and performing an automation audit of I-70. The data gathered by TRC will provide the DOTs with insights to make roadways ready for partially-automated vehicles. During public road testing, a professional driver would be at the wheel ready to intervene if needed. The project data gathered will be shared with USDOT to help shape federal policies and procedures across the U.S. 

“Once again, collaboration was the key to success,” noted Jack Marchbanks, the Ohio DOT director. “The project team assembled features state DOTs, technology providers, and the men and women of the freight industry. We at the Ohio Department of Transportation and DriveOhio are excited for the positive economic impacts this project will bring to Ohio.”

DriveOhio is an Ohio DOT initiative focused on connecting public and private entities involved in automated and connected transportation technologies. Transportation tech companies are working with DriveOhio to test autonomous vehicles and other next-generation transportation technology in the Midwest state that is a microcosm of the U.S.: It offers rural and urban traffic conditions with big cities and small towns, flat terrain in the north and hills and mountains in the south.

“We have something special here in Ohio,” said Patrick Smith, DriveOhio’s interim executive director. “As self-driving technology matures, it is important that everyone has a seat at the table. With the coalition of public, private and research institutions that we have built, we’re confident this project will provide valuable insights to USDOT and industry as we develop smart logistics policies, procedures and technology standards that will be shared across the nation.”

Ohio and Indiana have millions of transportation industry-related jobs. Both states are within a day’s drive to 60% of the U.S. and Canadian population and feature major freight corridors such as I-65, I-70, I-75, I-80 and I-90, which have all experienced substantial freight growth. 

The data gained from this four-year project will support technological innovation in this vital sector of the regional economy, Indiana DOT’s Fisher noted. “It’s going to be public-private partnerships that move this technology forward,” she said. “And we are excited — here in the transportation corridor of the Midwest — to be leading the national discussion on the incorporation of disruptive transportation technology into the U.S. interstate system.”

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