The USA’s leading independent automotive testing facility and proving ground, the Transportation Research Center (TRC), has received funding for a new 540-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test (SMART) Center, a state-of-the-art hub for connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) testing.
Ohio Governor John R Kasich announced that the State of Ohio and Ohio State University (OSU) are funding the US$45m Phase 1 expansion to be built within the 4,500 acres of the TRC facility in East Liberty, Ohio. Phase 1 of the expansion will include: a flexible platform and infrastructure; the industry’s largest high-speed intersection; the industry’s longest and most flexible test platform, covering a space the width of more than 50 highway lanes and the length of 10 football fields end-to-end; an urban network of intersections, roundabouts, traffic signals; a rural network including wooded roads, neighborhood network, and a SMART Center support building.
Funding efforts are underway for Phases 2 and 3 of the SMART Center expansion. Phase 2 will focus on the world’s first indoor test facility, which will allow for severe weather conditions, such as snow, ice, fog and freezing rain, to be available on-demand, year-round, to enable rigorous testing of highly automated vehicles in severe operating conditions. Phase 3 will include a six-lane high-speed highway, with on and off ramps and underpasses, to support the testing of vehicle swarming and truck platooning.
According to TRC’s CEO, Mark-Tami Hotta (right), there are three main reasons to expand on TRC’s proving grounds and the establishment of the SMART Center:
First, to support Columbus’s US$140m US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City project. TRC provides a convenient location to safely test new technologies before their use on city streets and highways;
Second, TRC is the home of the only federal vehicle research and test laboratory for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which issued its first directives on autonomous vehicle operation last September, and will need more track time to develop further guidelines for the industry;
Third, TRC’s SMART Center is designed to enable car manufacturers and suppliers to expand their automated and autonomous testing where the guidelines are being developed.
The SMART Center will be the only independent facility of its kind that is a part of a comprehensive one-stop test facility where all vehicle test and development can be efficiently performed at one location.
“There’s been an explosion of demand for active safety and autonomous testing around the world, and our SMART Center is committed to providing a comprehensive solution to that demand,” said Hotta. “We want to provide the industry and government regulatory agencies every test and infrastructure needed to make automated vehicles safe for public roads, as we have been doing for the last 40 years. We have visited virtually every other active safety and autonomous vehicle test facility around the world, talked with dozens of customers, and are partnering with many others, so that we can best serve the needs of everyone regarding creating safer vehicles, safer drivers, and safer roads.”