Ohio leaders break ground on autonomous vehicle testing center

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On July 9, Ohio Governor John Kasich and leaders from The Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), JobsOhio and other organizations came together to break ground on the Transportation Research Center’s (TRC) new SMART Center in East Liberty, Ohio.

​The SMART Center will serve as a testing ground for autonomous and connected vehicles.

“What this is going to do is give people the opportunity all over the world to be going 24/7, to test in all conditions and to have multiple cars on the road,” Kasich explains. “This is going to be the coolest place to go with your kids.”

Expected to be the largest facility of its kind in North America, the 540-acre vehicle testing area will offer year-round testing in all weather conditions. ​The first portion of the proving ground is expected to open later this year.

Last year, Kasich and Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake announced a $45 million investment in TRC to build the new SMART Center. The College of Engineering has committed $24 million over five years to hire faculty and staff to support research into autonomous vehicle technology.

According to Ohio State Interim Senior Vice President for Research Randy Moses, the new center will be a “boon” to students and faculty in fields from engineering to computer science.

“All of the students that will be out here will get a hands-on-experience and learning opportunities that are really unprecedented,” says Moses.

“With smart vehicles, it’s not just about mechanical engineering anymore, it’s electrical engineering, it’s sensing, it’s the network. It is also communications and the social aspects of the human-machine interface. And so this allows teams much broader than in any college or discipline who can come together and work on these kinds of problems.”

The SMART Center will connect to the U.S. Route 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, which is a 35-mile stretch that will be one of the “smartest” highways in the country.

To facilitate open-road testing of autonomous and connected vehicles, the four-lane, divided highway is being equipped with fiber-optic cable and wireless roadside sensors.

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