CDOT showcases autonomous vehicle designed to protect roadway maintenance crews
During a live roadway striping operation in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and its partners unveiled and showcased the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV), which is designed to help protect roadway maintenance crews.
Described as a “first-of-its kind work zone vehicle,” the AIPV is customarily positioned behind road construction crews so that it can protect road workers from the traveling public. Thanks to the AIPV removing the driver from a truck that is acrtually designed to be hit, the AIPV ultimately increases work zone safety for everybody.
As a part of its RoadX program, CDOT and its partners at Royal Truck & Equipment, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, and Colas UK utilized military technology for use in the AIPV. The technology uses a “rear-mounted attenuator (or crash cushion)” to absorb or deflect vehicles that cross into work zones.
Several of the vehicle’s features and capabilities have been thoroughly tested by CDOT, including its emergency stopping and obstacle detection systems, its ability to stay in its lane, and its ability to make tight turns.
Shailen Bhatt, CDOT Executive Director, says that several alarming statistics speak to why a vehicle like the AIPV is so important.
“Just in the last four years, there have been 26 incidents where a member of the traveling public struck a CDOT impact protection vehicle — that’s almost seven per year,” Bhatt says.
“This is a dangerously high number when you consider that in some instances, a CDOT employee is sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle that was hit. By using self-driving technology, we’re able to take the driver out of harm’s way while still effectively shielding roadside workers.”
CDOT says that in the state of Colorado, there were nearly 22,000 crashes and 171 fatalities in work zones between 2000 and 2014.
According to the FAA, in work zones in 2015 alone, there was a crash every five minutes, 70 crash-related injuries every day, and 12 crash-related fatalities every week.
CDOT is confident that the AIPV will help lower these numbers, as the technology will be used to “mimic the position, speed and direction of a lead vehicle that transmits a signal to the trailing driverless vehicle,” which will ensure that the vehicle is always in the correct position between roadway workers and live traffic.
“Today’s demonstration proves that technology can take transportation safety to a new level and forever improve the way we work,” Bhatt says.
CTOD's partners, Royal Truck & Equipment, Kratos Defense and Colas UK, all played a critical role in the development and deployment of the AIPV.
Royal Truck & Equipment built the AIPV using the latest technology such as the “industry’s largest variable message board mounted to the truck.” Kratos Defense designed the hardware and software that makes the AIPV driverless. And Colas UK is testing the same technology for use in work zones, and sharing test methods and lessons learned with CDOT.