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10/08/2020 10:45 AM

NDDOT demonstrates its first autonomous impact protection vehicle

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) hosted federal, state, and local officials to demonstrate its first autonomous impact protection vehicle (autonomous truck mounted attenuator) vehicle today at the Grand Farm Test Site near Horace, ND.

“This is a great day for North Dakota to showcase its commitment to innovation,” said NDDOT Director Bill Panos. “This technology is one more tool that we will have available to enhance the safety of work zones in our state.”

The autonomous vehicle will improve safety in work zones by removing the driver from the impact protection vehicle during normal operation. Impact protection vehicles are typically human operated and are designed to protect road construction crews from distracted motorists in work zones.

Last year, there were 261 work zone related crashes on North Dakota highways. These crashes resulted in 64 injuries and two fatalities.

“The NDDOT remains committed to its Vision Zero initiative and our goal is to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes,” said Panos. “We will continue to look for innovative ways to improve the safety of our state highway system.”  

The upgrade was made possible by a $241,687 grant from the Federal Highway Administration through its Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) program this past January.

This pilot project included the purchase of the autonomous vehicle technology that was used to convert a current NDDOT truck into a self-driving vehicle, or autonomous impact protection vehicle. This technology was developed by Kratos Defense in partnership with Royal Truck & Equipment.

The autonomous vehicle will be monitored and controlled by a human operated lead vehicle and will automatically follow behind construction equipment without putting a driver in danger.

Today’s demonstration of the driverless truck’s capabilities was held during Grand Farm's Innovation Day. Grand Farm was designed as a space where startups, established companies, government and academia could showcase their research and innovation. “Partnering with North Dakota's DOT is a prime example of how we can collaborate to showcase technology that will positively influence North Dakotans." Said Greg Tehven, Emerging Prairie Executive Director.

NDDOT plans to officially deploy the autonomous impact protection vehicle in the Fargo area this spring.