The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) received a federal grant to use innovative technology to improve work zone safety with an autonomous impact protection vehicle. The Federal Highway Administration awarded NDDOT a $241,687 grant through its Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) program in January.
This pilot project will include the purchase of autonomous vehicle technology that will be used to convert a truck into a self-driving vehicle, or autonomous impact protection vehicle.
“NDDOT is always concerned about safety,” said Brad Darr, NDDOT State Maintenance Engineer. “In 2019 there were 234 work zone related crashes on North Dakota highways. This will be one tool to enhance safety in work zones.”
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.
The autonomous vehicle will be controlled by a human operated, lead vehicle and will automatically follow behind construction equipment without putting a driver in danger. However, a driver will still be required to move the vehicle to and from the worksite.
The autonomous vehicle pilot project is expected to be deployed in the Fargo area later this year.