Ohio zoomed ahead in the transportation innovation race this week, unveiling the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, which local leaders are calling the world’s most connected highway.
Public and private sector participants gathered at the Transportation Research Center — a project anchor in East Liberty, Ohio — for the ribbon cutting of the 35-mile stretch of Route 33 from East Liberty to Dublin that will serve as a development and testing hub for connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. Project designers prioritized increasing safety, reducing traffic congestion, and boosting economic development through innovation and jobs creation.
Federal, state, and local partners including the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Transportation, DriveOhio (an ODOT initiative), Logan County, Union County, the Ohio cities of Dublin and Marysville, and Honda all contributed funding and/or in-kind contributions to the more than $20 million project.
“The partnership framework we have established during this project is a model for future programs across the state, as we work to improve the quality of life for all Ohioans,” Jack Marchbanks, ODOT director, said in a statement.
The corridor now contains a redundant loop of fiber optic broadband connected to 63 roadside units with radio transmitters. That foundational technology supports a total of 45 connected intersections in Dublin and Marysville. The Federal Communications Commissionapproved licenses for the short-range, wireless vehicle-to-infrastructure technology earlier this summer.
The infrastructure sends signals to connected and autonomous vehicles notifying drivers about changing road conditions, such as accidents, red lights, pedestrians, or congestion along the vehicle’s travel path. The driver can immediately respond to avoid a crash or choose a new route with less congestion. For instance, they could slow down if they get an alert that a driver ahead braked hard, thus avoiding a collision.
Although connected infrastructure primarily is publicized as a safety measure, it also helps to curb vehicle emissions and boost fuel efficiency by reducing traffic congestion. For example, red light notifications allow drivers to adjust their velocity so they don’t have to stop. That improves fuel efficiency because ramping up vehicle speed after a stop is a leading fuel consumption activity. In addition, preventing drivers from sitting in traffic bottlenecks reduces fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.
Honda deployed more than 200 vehicles equipped with connected technologies into the corridor to test the system and better understand how the technology affects customers. The connected corridor also aids operations for autonomous vehicles, which use similar technologies to connected vehicles.
“We know that technology is going to change. … We see this as a long-term asset that can mature,” DriveOhio managing director of communications and technology Luke Stedke told Centered.
“These technologies are maturing at a rapid pace and are forming new capabilities that are going to become extremely important over the next five to 10 years.”
The country’s heartland serves as an ideal testing ground due to its diverse meteorological and geographic conditions, Stedke said. A lot of vehicle technology testing primarily occurs in warm climates and rural areas.
“When people say ‘smart mobility,’ most people think of the coasts,” he said. But installing this system in Ohio is “a value add. If you’re going to sell an automated vehicle around the globe, you’re going to have to test it in Ohio. We have four seasons [and] you’re going from urban to rural to urban.”
Going for growth
ODOT and other partners will gather data on how the system works with daily traffic and benefits local communities.
“This project is another example of how we can utilize technology to improve quality of life and grow an innovative economy that will fuel the jobs of the future,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a news release.
The project partners invite businesses to use the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor to develop and test existing and new technologies. In turn, that would bring even more development and high-tech jobs to the region.
“We have like-minded innovators across the state that see smart mobility technology … as the future driving economic prosperity,” Stedke said. “What I would say to industry — Honda, Ford, GM, Waymo, and Argo — is, ‘You have a partner in Ohio.’”
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