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Tri-State Transportation Leaders Look To Expand Self-Driving Vehicles

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Waymo and its rival Cruise are seeking permits in San Francisco to charge for rides and delivery using autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are already on Greater Cincinnati roadways and the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) is looking to expand their role.

"Every day we're looking at this transportation technology," OKI CEO Mark Policinski said during a virtual Northern Kentucky forum sponsored by the Scripps Howard Center May 13. "We want to build it out in our region in a smart way to develop a region that works for everyone."

One of the challenges is transporting cargo and workers around the growing DHL and Amazon campuses at CVG. Policinski wonders, "How do you get workers to that campus - and then once they're on campus - how do you move them around?"

Autonomous vehicle tests are already underway at the airport. ThorDrive is simulating moving luggage from the terminal to the tarmac, a story WVXU told you about in February.

Cameras and sensors are on the front of a base tractor pulling the luggage carriers. This self-driving vehicle is designed to avoid planes, workers and anything else that might be in its way on the tarmac. It knows when to stop.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
ThorDrive's Eddie Shelton demonstrates the self-driving vehicle at CVG.

And the technology will apparently go beyond luggage carriers. "In the near future we intend to obviously extend that into a leadership position and autonomous vehicles in aviation and then also proliferate our technologies to other ground support equipment," says the company's Eddie Shelton.

CVG has talked with airlines and ground handlers and everyone seems to be interested in the technology, according to the airport's Senior Manager of Strategic Innovation Naashom Marx.

"Most recently we did do an ordinance around autonomous things," she says. "So, we want to make sure people on our campus, and people looking to come onto our campus, know that we are open to the idea. We will want to make sure there are standards, and safety is number one."

Where Else Are Driverless Vehicles?

Policinski couldn't go into specifics during the virtual forum but said, "I do know that driverless cars are engaged on our roads. So they are out there, but don't fear these because they all have manual override. These are not the cars without brakes and steering."

We do know UC continues to design and test self-driving vehicles.

And Ohio has its foot on the gas accelerating an effort to grow its self-driving vehicle industry.

Drive Ohio landed a $7.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant in 2019 to test self-driving vehicles in rural Ohio. At that time, Drive Ohio and the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State, Ohio University and the Transportation Research Center were planning to have vehicles in Vinton and Athens counties.

By now, car manufacturers and tech companies are all scrambling to get a piece of the self-driving market, one that Policinski says is projected to be worth $4 trillion by 2030.