Gov. John Kasich and The Ohio State University broke ground this week on a $45 million transportation center, three times larger than Disneyland, that will be used to test self-driving vehicles.
Kasich says the 540-acre Smart Center facility, attached to the state’s Transportation Research Center near Marysville, will allow smart car technology to be tested year-round.
“What this is going to do is give people the opportunity all over the world to be going at 24/7, to test in all conditions, to have multiple cars on the road,” Kasich said. “This is going to be like the coolest place to go with your kids. Forget the amusement park. Bring them out here.”
While many states have been making investments in smart vehicle research, Kasich says this will make this facility the only one of its kind in the world. Kasich has made autonomous vehicle testing a major priority of his administration: in May, he signed an executive order opening all of Ohio's public roads to driverless vehicles.
Officials say the Transportation Research Center expects to open the first portion of the autonomous vehicle testing facility by the end of the year.
The Smart Center will feature roads and structures intended to replicate the high-speed intersections, rural roads and urban areas normally encountered by drivers. Officials say the project will give researchers and vehicle developers access to the types of driving variables autonomous cars will face in real-life driving situations.
This new test track is funded with a $45 million grant from Ohio State and the state’s non-profit job creation company JobsOhio.