Columbus, OHIO — Transportation is an industry on the verge of life-changing advances with self-driving and connected vehicles, smart highways and smart cities. Today Ohio furthered its position as a leading innovative state when Ohio Governor John R. Kasich announced that the state of Ohio, The Ohio State University and JobsOhio would invest $45 million for the first phase of a state-of-the-art hub for automated and autonomous testing at the Transportation Research Center (TRC). The all-new 540-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test (SMART) Center will be built within the 4,500 acres of TRC’s testing facility, the nation’s largest independent automotive proving ground.
“We are the best independent automotive testing center in America. We want to be the best in the world,” said Governor John R. Kasich.
In November, state officials announced a $15 million investment in a Smart Mobility Corridor, installing fiber optic cable and sensors in the 35-mile stretch of highway between Columbus and the TRC, where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic situations. Today’s announcement included two additional smart highway projects: Interstate 90 in northern Ohio and on the Interstate 270 beltway in Columbus, which will connect Columbus Smart Cities and the Rickenbacker Logistics Hub with the TRC.
TRC has been testing different types of vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, ATVs, military vehicles and virtually every kind of specialty vehicle – and components at its facility in East Liberty, Ohio, for more than 40 years.
“At JobsOhio we have our eye on the future by investing in next-generation technology,” said JobsOhio President and CIO John Minor. “This center, along with Smart Cities, is making central Ohio one of the most innovative areas in this country.”
“Thanks to the support of the state of Ohio, Ohio Department of Transportation, JobsOhio and The Ohio State University, the SMART Center expansion provides the capabilities, facilities and support to enable the development of future automated vehicles,” said Mark-Tami Hotta, CEO of the TRC. “TRC’s SMART Center 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.”
The first phase of the expansion will include the following:
- The industry’s largest high-speed intersection
- The industry’s longest and most flexible test platform (the width of more than 50 highway lanes and the length of 10 football fields end-to-end)
- An urban network of intersections, roundabouts and traffic signals
- A rural network that includes wooded roads
- A neighborhood network that tests slower speeds
- A SMART Center support building
Funding is underway for two following phases, which would include an indoor winter weather facility and a highway loop.
These outstanding assets, along with hundreds of innovators working to advance sensor technology, helped the city of Columbus “Smart Columbus” vision win the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge. The $40 million federal grant and significant third-party co-investment means “Smart Columbus” will become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative transportation technologies. The TRC SMART center expansion is a key element in supporting the Department of Transportation’s SmartCity initiative right here in Central Ohio.