As the automotive industry feverishly works to develop driverless technology that avoids collisions, Colorado is deploying autonomous trucks that are designed to get into collisions.
The Colorado Department of Transportation recently unveiled what it calls the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle, or AIPV. The agency is using the “first-of-its-kind work-zone vehicle” as a buffer between road workers and live traffic.
Between 2000 and 2014, there were 21,898 crashes and 171 fatalities in Colorado work zones, according to the agency.
The AIPV is designed to reduce the number of work-zone accidents. The vehicle’s self-driving system mimics the position, speed and direction of a lead vehicle, which transmits a signal to the trailing driverless vehicle, ensuring that the AIPV is correctly positioned between roadway workers and live traffic.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and several private contractors adapted military technology that uses a rear-mounted attenuator – or crash cushion – to absorb or deflect vehicles that cross into work zones.
“Just in the last four years, there have been 26 incidents where a member of the traveling public struck a CDOT impact protection vehicle – that’s almost seven per year,” said Shailen Bhatt, executive director for the agency. “This is a dangerously high number when you consider that in some instances, a CDOT employee is sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle that was hit. By using self-driving technology, we’re able to take the driver out of harm’s way while still effectively shielding roadside workers.”
Prior to a recent live demonstration of the APIV, the Colorado Department of Transportation said it conducted extensive testing of the AIPV’s emergency-stopping and obstacle-detection systems. Testing also confirmed the vehicle’s ability to stay in its lane and make tight turns, according to the agency.
The state’s partnership with Colas UK, Royal Truck & Equipment and Kratos Defense was pivotal in deploying the technology, the agency said.
“Colas, a private company that provides civil engineering, maintenance and construction services in the United Kingdom, is testing the same technology for use in work zones, and is sharing test methods and lessons learned with CDOT,” the agency said. “Royal Truck & Equipment built the AIPV using the latest technology, including the industry’s largest variable message board mounted to the truck. Kratos Defense designed the hardware and software needed to provide the driverless capability to the AIPV.”
The AIPV project is part of “RoadX,” the Colorado Department of Transportation’s “bold vision and commitment to being a national leader in using innovative technology to create travel in Colorado that’s free of crashes, injuries and delays.”