The Transportation Research Center, Inc. (TRC) on Wednesday opened SMARTCenter, the continent’s largest contained testing site for connected and autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies. TRC is the largest automotive proving ground in North America, located in East Liberty, OH.
SMARTCenter spreads across 540 acres of the TRC’s 4,500 acres, nearly two-thirds the size of New York City’s Central Park. The expansive site provides a safe, secure space to test advanced automotive and mobility technologies in a real-world environment before the vehicles are used on public roads.
The site boasts features like the longest and widest connected, signaled intersection in the industry; an urban network of movable roundabouts; and an underground power distribution and fiber network to test technologies.
One year ago, former Gov. John Kasich and senior state officials broke ground on the SMARTCenter land, promising "a giant step forward in making Ohio the go-to state for developing vehicles and smart transportation technologies of the future." The new SMARTCenter helps cement that promise, staking a growing leadership role for Ohio in the AV industry.
The $45 million center was funded by the State of Ohio, JobsOhio and the Ohio State University. The site includes a 10,000-square-foot control building with garage and office space, 1.1 million square feet of pavement and more than 20,000 linear feet of underground conduits that distribute power throughout the site.
The new facility will help attract top talent, businesses and automated-driving technology investments to the state, according to a statement from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
Kasich also created DriveOhio’s Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program in May 2018 to establish statewide rules for testing AVs on public roads.
Ohio’s "diversity" in weather and terrain makes the state a perfect candidate for testing and advancing AV technology, he said. Cities like Marysville, Athens, Columbus and Dublin have agreed to participate in the state program, serving as AV testing sites for private companies.
Columbus has been particularly active in mobility and smart city initiatives, launching the state's first self-driving shuttle service in September 2018. The city partnered with AV startup May Mobility to bring the fleet of all-electric shuttles that travel up to 25 mph and include a panoramic glass roof, six seats and a human operator for safety monitoring. The vehicles are a direct result of the city winning the 2016 Smart City Challenge award and earning $40 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.