CDOT’s self-driving work zone vehicle

Aug 21, 2017

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled a work zone vehicle designed to advance safety for roadway maintenance crews. Customarily positioned behind road smart roadsconstruction 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.

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, Colorado. As part of its RoadX program, CDOT and partners at Colas UK, Royal Truck & Equipment and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, 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.

“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.”

Between 2000 and 2014, Colorado has seen 21,898 crashes and 171 fatalities in work zones. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in work zones in 2015, there was a crash every 5.4 minutes, 70 crash-related injuries every day, and 12 crash-related fatalities every week. The AIPV is designed to reduce these numbers by using 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.

“Today’s demonstration proves that technology can take transportation safety to a new level and forever improve the way we work,” Bhatt said. Prior to the 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.

To see the AIPV in action, view the livestream of the demonstration at CDOT’s Facebook page or YouTube page.

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