FutureStructure

Ohio DOT Official Discusses Preparing for an Autonomous Future

While the deputy director maintained that any transition into autonomous vehicles will probably take decades, he said that interest into this new potential market is impossible to ignore.

by Craig Kelly, The Lima News, Ohio / May 17, 2017
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(TNS) -- LIMA, Ohio — For Kirk Slusher, the deputy director for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 1, his department must not only be thinking about the vehicles on the road today, but the ones that will be travelling the roads in the future, including ones that drive themselves.

Autonomous vehicles are already on the roads today in several parts of the country, using complex software, global positioning satellite technology, and other advancements to eliminate the need for a human driver. Seeing more of them on area roadways is a matter of when, not if, according to Slusher, who spoke on this and other transportation-related topics at Monday’s Lima Rotary Club meeting at Veterans Memorial Civic Center.

“They are coming, and we just need to be prepared for it, not just from a transportation aspect of what ODOT and other state agencies are able to do, but also looking at what drivers are used to,” he said. “How are they going to prepare? How are you going to convince and individual to allow it to take over?”

While Slusher maintained that any transition into autonomous vehicles will probably take decades, he said that interest into this new potential market is impossible to ignore, with both traditional automobile manufacturers such as Ford and even companies such as Tesla, Google and Apple developing vehicles that do not need a driver. By 2021, Slusher said, every major auto manufacturer will be prepared to have autonomous vehicles rolling off their assembly lines, an assertion shared in publications such as Business Insider.

“My message is that you’re going to be driving among them,” he said. “They’re already here now and they’ll be coming at a much more rapid pace. You’ll see cities dive into this before rural areas, looking at their transportation fleets, looking at public transportation.”

This evolution in transportation is evident at ODOT, according to Slusher.

“What’s happening now is the auto industry is designing these vehicles and their software of how they interpret things to [work with] the existing roadway infrastructure,” Slusher said. “What will be important for us is to maintain what we have now, so striping will be critically important moving forward, making sure we have delineated lines on our pavement that the detection devices on the cars can read.”

Other applications for ODOT includes advancing autonomous vehicle safety research and incorporating communication and detection devices into the pavement itself that can communicate with the vehicles themselves.

©2017 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.