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Auto test centre granted $45m for self-driving cars

Facility seeks to provide industry and government regulatory agencies with every test and infrastructure needed to make autonomous vehicles safe for public roads

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Hotta: "explosion in demand for active safety and autonomous testing"
Hotta: "explosion in demand for active safety and autonomous testing"

The all-new 540-acre centre will be a hub for automated and autonomous testing

The SMART Centre will include the industry's largest high-speed intersection

One of the largest vehicle test facilities in the US is to receive $45m in state grants to transform it into a “state-of-the-art hub” for research into and testing of connected and driverless vehicles.


The State of Ohio, Ohio State University and partners are providing the funding for the phase 1 expansion of the Transportation Research Centre’s (TRC) new Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test, or SMART, Centre. The all-new 540-acre facility will be built within TRC’s 4,500 acre grounds in East Liberty, Ohio.


“There’s been an explosion of demand for active safety and autonomous testing around the world, and TRC’s SMART Centre is committed to providing a comprehensive solution to that demand,” said Mark-Tami Hotta, CEO, TRC.


“As the largest independent vehicle test facility and proving grounds in North America, with more than 1,000 customers worldwide, we’re experts in testing and validating vehicles. We want to provide the industry and government regulatory agencies every test and infrastructure needed to make automated and autonomous vehicles safe for public roads, as we have been doing for the last 40 years.”


Phase 1 of the expansion will include: a flexible platform and infrastructure; the industry’s largest high-speed intersection; the industry’s longest and most flexible test platform (a space the width of more than 50 highway lanes and the length of 10 football fields end-to-end); an urban network of intersections, roundabouts, traffic signals; a rural network including wooded roads, neighbourhood network; and a support building.


TRC’s SMART Centre is designed to test new technologies and highly automated vehicles in a closed, safe, secure and repeatable real world environment, before the vehicles are deployed on public roads and highways,” added Hotta.


TRC said it has been testing different types of vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, ATVs, military vehicles and virtually every kind of specialty vehicle – and components for more than 40 years, including testing automated and autonomous vehicles over the last two decades.


Funding efforts are underway for the next two phases of the centre expansion. Phase 2 will focus on the world’s first indoor test facility, which will allow for severe weather conditions, such as snow, ice, fog and freezing rain, to be available on-demand, year-round, to enable rigorous testing of highly automated vehicles in severe operating conditions.


Phase 3 will include a six-lane high-speed highway, with on- and off ramps and underpasses, to support the testing of vehicle swarming and truck platooning.


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