Skip to: Main Content Search Navigation Secondary Navigation

Russ College to support federal multimillion dollar autonomous driving project

Colleen Carow | Sep 16, 2019

Russ College to support federal multimillion dollar autonomous driving project

Colleen Carow | Sep 16, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that it plans to award $7.5 million to an Ohio-based team of industry, academia and community partners – including Ohio University – to develop and deploy automated transportation solutions for 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 in the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) announcement. “Ohio is committed to being at the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle technology development.”

“DriveOhio” is an ODOT initiative focused on automated and connected transportation technologies.

Russ College Associate Dean for Industry Partnerships Scott Miller said the project is designed to test the technologies in areas that lack high speed data connections, automated traffic control systems, and other infrastructure that is ubiquitous in urban settings. The total investment in Ohio will be $17.8 million.

“In order to seamlessly stitch this technology into our daily lives, we need to develop use cases that demonstrate it can extend beyond urban areas,” he said. “Ohio University and the City of Athens are the perfect test bed for these types of projects.”

Ohio University expects to receive funding to analyze road and environment sensor data from atypical and experimental urban autonomous vehicles in challenging conditions using cameras, GPS and LiDAR, then recommend how to improve the technology and influence policy.

Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jay Wilhelm is working with Sam Khoury and Bhaven Naik, both assistant professors of civil engineering, on the OHIO project, called “D.A.T.A in Ohio: Developing Automated Technology Anywhere.” 

“From food deliveries to patient transport for doctor visits and employment transportation, autonomous vehicles have the potential to greatly improve the health and lives of rural residents who don’t own vehicles or are unable to drive,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm explained that autonomous vehicles aren’t capable of traversing most rural roads because of missing road lines, trees blocking GPS access, or narrow passage.

According to ODOT, testing of automated driving systems will be conducted in all seasons, during day and night, and on both 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. In regions where on-road testing is to take place, local officials will 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 led by the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC), North America’s largest independent automotive testing facility.

Other academic partners include The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati. 

“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 ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “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.”