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Otto to Test Autonomous Rig in Ohio


Ohio is the next venue for autonomous truck tests by Otto, the Uber-owned development company that made a well-reported driverless beer delivery in Colorado several weeks ago.

An Otto vehicle was supposed to travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 on Monday in central Ohio, between Dublin and East Liberty, home to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility, according to an Associated Press report.

An appearance by Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the demo was canceled when a brief stabbing rampage on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus began about 10 a.m., and the governor shifted his attention to that, said ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning. (The incident, first reported as an active-shooter situation, ended quickly when an OSU police officer shot the perpetrator, though local media coverage remains intense.)

The public demonstration with Kasich involved will be rescheduled, perhaps for later in the week, Bruning said. 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, partnerships with university researchers, and seasonal weather changes that enable testing a variety of driving conditions in one place. Also, extensive logistics operations rely on transportation, so would be affected and perhaps aided by autonomous trucks.

The Otto truck will travel in regular traffic and a driver will be in the cab to intervene should anything go awry, ODOT officials said. That section of Route 33 — built to freeway standards — will become a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic. A fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems are slated for installation next year.

“Certainly we think it’s going to be one of the foremost automotive research corridors in the world,” Bruning said.

The self-driving truck is also expected to travel next week on part of the Ohio Turnpike. The turnpike’s executive director said in August that officials were moving toward allowing testing of self-driving vehicles on the 241-mile toll road, which cuts across northern Ohio and is a heavily traveled connector between the East Coast and Chicago.

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