Indiana may become testing ground for driverless semis

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("Highway 404 & Highway 401" by Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, Public Domain)

Indiana may become a testing and proving ground for driverless semi-trucks.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with federal and private partners to test out the feasibility of operating automated semi-trucks on interstates. Scott Manning with INDOT said the plan is to use I-70, which stretches from Terre Haute to Richmond as the proving ground.

“It could be something that conceivably within the next decade we move further in that direction,” Manning said to WISH-TV. “Indiana is really an ideal place to test out automotive and transportation technology because we have four very distinct seasons.”

There is already technology being developed by Purdue University that is in the works to make driverless semi-trucks a possibility. It would have a driver in a lead truck with a platoon of trucks in tow via some sort of signal that is sent to the following driverless trucks much like a radio-controlled car.

Though INDOT is trying out the tech, many truck drivers are skeptical of the idea.

“I don’t see it happening in my lifetime at least,” said Andrew Denslow to WISH-TV. “You’ve got a trailer back there that sometimes has a mind of its own. You’re basically driving an $80,000 wrecking machine down the road.”

“You’re taught when you’re driving a truck, when you start, that if a deer runs out in front of you take it head-on. You don’t try to swerve or try to miss it, you take it head-on,” said Cindy Kaps. “That (automated) truck is going to try and stop and it’s going to cause an accident.”

Manning said the first phase of testing this technology out would not have any trucks without of driver while testing on I-70. He said INDOT is also sharing its $4.4 million federal grant with several other entities to help with the testing, including the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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