COLUMBUS, Ohio — A self-driving truck made a 35-mile run on U.S. Route 33 in Ohio Tuesday as state officials prepared to announce details of new investments to support innovative transportation technology on Wednesday.
The initial run was scheduled Monday after officials were first scheduled to make the investment announcement, but the event and run were postponed in the wake of the tragic incident at The Ohio State University, which is located in Columbus.
Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said Tuesday’s trip was scheduled as part of the postponed event, noting that state officials saw no reason not to go ahead with the Tuesday run.
Wednesday’s event will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST in the parking lot of OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital.
The truck will make another run after the event.
Later in the week, it is scheduled to drive on the Ohio Turnpike.
The time and route for the turnpike run has not been announced.
The vehicle, from self-driving truck maker Otto, Tuesday traveled between Dublin and East Liberty, home to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility.
Bruning called Tuesday’s run “flawless.”
The truck traveled in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck was positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Bruning said, adding that “safety is obviously No. 1.”
Officials said the section of Route 33 where the truck traveled — a four-lane, divided road — is an important piece of autonomous vehicle research in the state and will become a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year.
“Continuing to build its reputation as a world leader in transportation research, including self-driving and connected vehicle technologies, Ohio is working on many fronts to advance innovations that will change the way people and products are transported in Ohio and across the world,” state officials said in announcing Wednesday’s schedule.
Gov. John Kasich will discuss details of that investment and other efforts to support autonomous vehicle research at the Wednesday event.
“Certainly we think it's going to be one of the foremost automotive research corridors in the world,” Bruning said.
The Ohio Turnpike’s executive director said in August that officials were moving toward allowing testing of self-driving vehicles on the 241-mile toll road, a heavily traveled connector between the East Coast and Chicago.
Tests of self-driving vehicles have been made in other areas.
Anheuser-Busch said last month that it had completed the world's first commercial shipment by self-driving truck, sending a beer-filled tractor-trailer on a trip of more than 120 miles through Colorado.
The company said a professional truck driver was on board for the entire route. Several automobile companies have tested self-driving vehicles on public roads in California and Nevada, and Uber is testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh.
Kasich has pushed for Ohio to be a leader in the fast-advancing testing and research of autonomous vehicles. State officials say Ohio is well-positioned for such a role for many reasons, including a significant presence from the automotive industry in the state, partnerships with university researchers, and the seasonal weather changes that enable testing a variety of driving conditions in one place.
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