Grant funds North Dakota DOT autonomous vehicle technology

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North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) officials said the agency will use a portion of recently received federal funds to purchase innovative technology yielding an autonomous impact protection vehicle.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded NDDOT a $241,687 grant through its Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) program in January.

“NDDOT is always concerned about safety,” Brad Darr, NDDOT State Maintenance engineer, said. “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 overarching goal of the autonomous impact protection vehicle, officials said, is to improve safety in work zones by removing the driver from the impact protection vehicle during normal operation, noting impact protection vehicles are typically human operated and 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. 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.