Ohio has received $17.8 million to generate data on self-driving vehicles, an area of research in which the state is already playing a prominent role, according to the state's U.S. senators.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Sen. Rob Portman said the grant, announced last week, will be used to keep Ohio at the forefront of vehicle automation research.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has pledged to continue state efforts that included the opening of a statewide center for autonomous vehicle research created by his predecessor, Republican John Kasich.
"The award of this grant shows that Ohio continues to be at the center of this new transportation technology era," DeWine said in a statement. "Ohio is committed to being at the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle technology development."
The Ohio Department of Transportation and a group of other organizations, including DriveOhio and the Transportation Research Center, received a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. An additional $10.3 million was contributed in matching funds.
The Transportation Research Center's president and CEO, Brett Roubinek, said the grant is focused on examining self-driving vehicles on rural roads, since most prior research has involved urban roads.
He says the project, which includes industry, academic and community partners, will aid policymakers in defining regulation by providing data on automated systems. Testing will begin in the next few months and continue over four years.
Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, said that by focusing on 32 counties in Ohio's rural Appalachian region, studies supported by the grant will be the most comprehensive so far on rural U.S. roads.
"The lessons we learn in Ohio can have enormous benefits for our own state and nationwide as we work to make our transportation system safer," Marchbanks said in a statement.
Other partners include Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati.