Ohio’s banking on a $218 million “driverless car” highway to get techies out of sunny California and test their autonomous tech alongside cornfields, cows and Cedar Point.
The Fuc—ahem, Buckeye state is lining 35 miles on Route 33 with fiber-optic cables that will communicate traffic conditions, accidents and weather changes to driverless cars over a wifi network. The highway’s internet will be up by the end of September. It will connect the highway to driverless car sensors sometime next year, Inverse reports:
The miles of orange cable are six inches in diameter and can support seven different fiber cables, Eric Phillips, CEO of Union County Economic Development Partnership, tells Inverse.
Only one fiber cable is being inserted now, and it will have 432 strands of fiber to support the internet needs of the local communities and the connected highway. The sensors along the highway will use the fiber internet to help run communication between cars fitted with receivers and sensors along the route.
Ohio won a $50 million grant from the federal government last year to make Columbus infrastructure ready to connect to autonomous vehicles. Cars with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure capabilities are enormously important to ensure driverless cars are as safe as possible. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects connected cars to eliminate 80 percent of non-impaired crashes, and the Obama administration suggested a mandate that all new cars have connected tech by 2023.
Inverse reports Ohio’s motivation here is to stop the state’s “brain drain,” when young people take job opportunities elsewhere (Can you blame them? Who wants to spend more time in Ohio than they need to?):
Reversing brain drain takes doing something that isn’t happening in the rest of the country, says Phillips. “We’ve got to innovate, we’ve got to look for different ways, and [smart mobility] is an opportunity that a lot of people haven’t taken advantage of,” Phillips tells me. In the last 14 months he says his town has gone from having slow internet to being the focus a major development that he hopes will make Columbus a little more like Silicon Valley.
FYI: The University of Michigan built the first “driverless car ready” city, not just a measly highway... Just in case you were wondering...