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Colo. DOT Debuts Self-Driving Work Zone Vehicle

August 21, 2017

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The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled a self-driving work zone vehicle designed to advance safety for roadway maintenance crews. Customarily positioned behind road construction crews in order to protect workers from the traveling public, the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV) increases work zone safety by removing the driver from a truck that is actually designed to be hit.

“Just in the last four years, there have been 26 incidents where a member of the traveling public struck a CDOT impact protection vehicle — that’s almost seven per year,” said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT executive director. “This is a dangerously high number when you consider that in some instances, a CDOT employee is sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle that was hit. By using self-driving technology, we’re able to take the driver out of harm’s way while still effectively shielding roadside workers.”

The AIPV uses technology to mimic the position, speed, and direction of a lead vehicle that transmits a signal to the trailing driverless vehicle, ensuring the AIPV is always correctly positioned between roadway workers and live traffic.

CDOT and a host of partners showcased the AIPV in action without a driver behind the wheel during a live roadway striping operation in Fort Collins, Colo. As part of its RoadX program, CDOT and its partners adapted military technology for use in the AIPV that uses a rear-mounted attenuator (or crash cushion) to absorb or deflect vehicles that cross into work zones.

Prior to the August 18 live roadway operation, CDOT conducted extensive testing of the AIPV’s emergency stopping and obstacle detection systems. Testing also confirmed the vehicle’s ability to stay in its lane and make tight turns.

CDOT’s partnership with Colas UK, Royal Truck & Equipment, and Kratos Defense was pivotal in deploying this technology. Colas, a private company that provides civil engineering, maintenance, and construction services in the United Kingdom, is testing the same technology for use in work zones, and is sharing test methods and lessons learned with CDOT. Royal Truck & Equipment built the AIPV using the latest technology, including the industry’s largest variable message board mounted to the truck. Kratos Defense designed the hardware and software needed to provide the driverless capability to the AIPV.

CDOT will continue testing and plans to begin using the vehicle by the end of the year.

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