It may not have been obvious, but for the past two years, self-driving cars have been tested on the Interstate 95 and 495 Express Lanes, including while regular toll-paying drivers and carpoolers are right nearby.
Now, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will receive $15 million in federal funding to support research on safe automated driving integration, and how to develop self-driving trucks.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said while unmanned systems research can “ultimately, improve lives across the globe,” with automated driving systems, “it’s important to get safety right the first time.”
One of two $7.5 million grants will “seek to develop and demonstrate a Fleet Concept of Operations to provide the trucking industry with clear guidelines on how to safely implement and benefit from trucks equipped with automated driving systems.”
The other project “will seek to define, develop and demonstrate key dynamic scenarios and their potential solutions for safe interaction of vehicles equipped with automated driving systems in a Northern Virginia corridor optimized for vehicle automation.”
In 2017, Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a three-year agreement among the Virginia Department of Transportation, the private company that operates the 95 and 495 Express Lanes and the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations Research and Development.
VDOT has the right to set the time and days of the week when the testing is permitted, and both VDOT and Express Lanes operator Transurban are entitled to access all data from the tests.
Warner’s release did not specify whether automated trucks will soon be on Northern Virginia roadways. Currently, Transurban spokeswoman Tanya Sheres tells WTOP “I can confirm that automated truck testing is not taking place on Transurban’s Express Lanes.”
Last week, Daimler Trucks announced it began testing automated trucks on highways in southwest Virginia, near where its partner Torc Robotics is headquartered.