Uber-owned Otto’s self-driving big rig truck took to the road in Ohio yesterday in the first of two tests in the state.
The demonstration, with a driver behind the steering wheel as a safety percaution, traveled a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 between Dublin and East Liberty, home to the Transportation Research Center, an independent testing facility.
That section of Route 33 — built to freeway standards — will become a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year the Detroit News reported.
“Certainly we think it’s going to be one of the foremost automotive research corridors in the world,” Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said.
The second Otto test route will be on an as-yet-unidentified part of the Ohio Turnpike, a busy 241-mile major route between Chicago and the East Coast.
In October an Otto truck made a 120-mile trek in Colorado with a trailer load of Anheuser-Busch beer, the first commercial shipment by a self-driving truck.
But on its trek to showing off the truck’s self-driving capabilities, Otto pulled a shenagnian in Nevada.
Before it was aquired by Uber, Otto made its debut in May, demonstrating its technology (see video) on Interstate 80 in Nevada while the driver sits it the cab.
While driverless vehicle tests are not illegal in the state, according to a report from tech website Backchannel, the company knowingly bypassed and violated the necessary testing and permit requirements.
During tests, vehicles must be supervised by people sitting in the driver and passenger seats. Approved vehicles are given a red license plate to show they are autonomous.
Though Nevada’s current testing laws have been in place since 2013, there are no legal penalties for parties who fail to comply.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is drafting a new set of autonomous vehicle regulations scheduled for submission in 2017, which is intended to include penalties for violations.
Otto took a big risk by flouting regulations, but the move paid off when Uber spent $680 million to buy the company just three months after the self-driving video appeared.