A car drifts around a curve in a driver training course at the Transportation Research Center Inc. in East Liberty Friday, June 9, 2017. Bill Lackey/Staff

Springfield, Clark County group learns program is looking to boost investment of transportation tech in Ohio

A state program tied to the Ohio Department of Transportation is looking to attract new investment and create new job opportunities throughout Ohio, the agency’s managing director said in Springfield Friday.

DriveOhio was developed to serve as a hub connecting private and public entities and encourage testing of autonomous vehicles and similar technologies in the state, said Andrew Bremmer, the entity’s managing director. He was the keynote speaker during the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee’s annual meeting Friday.

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The agency’s goal is to attract investment and jobs to the state while promoting the development of new technologies to slash accidents and fatalities on Ohio’s roads. DriveOhio receives support from the Ohio Department of Transportation and oversees programs like the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.

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“We’re now able to serve as a one-stop shop to that company or innovator that wants to come into the state and demonstrate a product,” Bremmer said. “We can be that office to say ‘yes, Springfield as a community has great assets. We would like you to demonstrate this product here.’”

In one ongoing project, the Air Force Research Laboratories and Ohio have invested a total of $5 million to procure and install a ground-based sense-and-avoid system at the Springfield airport. That will allow operators to conduct tests to provide safe separation between drones and other aircraft in the airspace.

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One of the agency’s priorities is advancing technologies that can improve traffic flow and prevent crashes, he said. ODOT is using wireless technology along a stretch of I-90 in Northeast Ohio to study the impact of lake-effect snow on the road. The data collected will be used to help law enforcement agencies manage the road to slash crashes and fatalities.

“All this technology that needs to be demonstrated has to serve a purpose…,” Bremmer said. “If it makes a promise to save a person’s life or to prevent crashes or make the transportation system operate more smoothly in some way shape or form we have those metrics and we’re able to measure against them.”

The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor between Dublin and the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty is one of Drive Ohio’s more high-profile projects. The roughly 35-mile corridor will serve as a testing ground for autonomous and connected vehicles.

Researchers will be able to use info collected from fiberoptic cable and sensors to monitor traffic and collect data from the vehicles. That will allow companies to test their products in real-world conditions.

The new technologies could also create new job opportunities, said Rich Granger, managing director for workforce development for DriveOhio. The new technologies will eliminate some jobs, but it will also create new opportunities in other fields, Granger said.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure the state’s workforce is able to adapt to job requirements that change faster than ever before with new technologies, he said.

“What’s different now is it’s happening faster,” he said of improving technology and its impact on transportation. “The change is happening so fast it’s hard to get out ahead of it.”

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