Ohio: America’s Innovation Corridor

A strong IT innovation network drives the evolution of smart mobility
Milind Paranjape, director of information technology, JobsOhio
November 13, 2017

Innovation is a key to economic growth, and Ohio is on the leading edge. This is evident in the new ideas, processes and technologies that solve problems and forge new pathways forward.

Ohio is home to, or connected with, numerous businesses, academic institutions, research facilities and trade organizations involved in development and commercialization of new technologies, including those related to information technology and autonomous and connected vehicles.

Innovation is a key to economic growth, and Ohio is on the leading edge. This is evident in the new ideas, processes and technologies that solve problems and forge new pathways forward.

Ohio is home to, or connected with, numerous businesses, academic institutions, research facilities and trade organizations involved in development and commercialization of new technologies, including those related to information technology and autonomous and connected vehicles.

Ohio is recognized as an emerging leader in the infrastructure and collaborative partnerships that drive innovation in information technology. Our IT infrastructure and collaborative ecosystem help companies excel in areas such as data analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity and the internet of things. The presence of companies like IBM, 84.51°, Alliance Data, Teradata, Oracle and Saama illustrate the state’s growing status as a big data hub.

Ohio’s $100 million investment in IT infrastructure includes the publicly owned Ohio Supercomputer Center, which goes beyond commonly available commercial services by providing industry and researchers with integrated hardware, software and consulting under one roof. OARnet, Ohio’s next-generation broadband superhighway, connects businesses and academic partners with the fastest broadband infrastructure anywhere.

But nowhere is the state emerging more quickly than in the advancement of automotive and transportation systems, and Ohio is taking its next step: as a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles.

The time is right. Advancements in the next 10 to 15 years could have a dramatic impact on personal transportation and on the moving of freight over America’s highways. Innovation and advancements in technologies are disrupting and reshaping sectors and forcing companies to change their business models, in Ohio and across America. This can be seen most readily in an increasing digital economy that has affected our personal lives through smart phones, tablets and apps. This creates opportunities for investment in digital capabilities and tools like big data, cloud computing and sensors. All are crucial to the advancement of autonomous and connected vehicles, and all are growing in Ohio at breakneck speeds.

Ohio is deeply involved in the research and development of autonomy and sensors. For example, Ohio has developed a robust sensors cluster that includes creation of technology for autonomous vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles through collaborative partnerships with the University of Dayton, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and others. Meanwhile, Ohio is home to the Transportation Research Center (TRC), the largest independent, smart-mobility proving ground in the country and the only location where the U.S. Department of Transportation tests and develops traffic safety standards.

In January, Ohio furthered the TRC’s position when Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich announced that the State of Ohio, The Ohio State University and JobsOhio would invest $45 million in TRC’s first phase of a state-of-the-art hub for automated and autonomous testing. The new 540-acre Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center will be built within the 4,500 acres of TRC’s testing facility. The first phase of the expansion includes:

  • The industry’s largest high-speed intersection
  • The industry’s longest and most flexible test platform (the width of more than 50 highway lanes and the length of 10 football fields end to end)
  • An urban network of intersections, roundabouts and traffic signals
  • A rural network that includes wooded roads
  • A neighborhood network that tests slower speeds
  • A SMART Center support building

Ohio’s science and technology assets helped the City of Columbus win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge last year. The $40 million federal grant and significant third-party, co-investment means “Smart Columbus” will become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative transportation technologies. The TRC SMART Center expansion is a key element in supporting the Department of Transportation’s Smart City initiative.

To date, Ohio has invested more than any other state in both controlled and open road testing.

For example, Ohio is creating smart mobility corridors that will be the proving ground for innovation in transportation. In November, state officials announced a $15 million investment in a Smart Mobility Corridor, installing fiber-optic cable and sensors in the 35-mile stretch of highway between Columbus and the TRC in East Liberty, where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic situations.

As the longest autonomous-ready highway in the nation, the road will be lined in fiber-optic cable to allow highway sensors to communicate via Wi-Fi with autonomous cars about weather, traffic, road conditions and accidents. The sensors also will allow communication with government vehicles using short-range radio transmitters.

The Smart Mobility Corridor announcement also included two additional smart highway projects: Interstate 90 in northern Ohio and the Interstate 270 beltway in Columbus, which will connect Columbus Smart City and the Rickenbacker Logistics Hub with the TRC. Additional projects on Interstate 670 and the Ohio Turnpike are on deck.

Private industry is jumping into the future with both feet. Honda of America Mfg., based in Marysville, is working on a number of technologies to advance mobility and is collaborating in the Smart Columbus and the U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor initiatives. Meanwhile, Intel subsidiary Wind River System recently announced a partnership with the TRC, The Ohio State University and the City of Dublin, Ohio, to develop new self-driving and connected vehicle technologies.

In May, Silicon Valley-based Singularity University announced the Smart City Accelerator, the first program of its kind, in Columbus. The Smart City Accelerator will choose 10 businesses focused on mobility, connectivity data and analytics, infrastructure and energy, and manufacturing and production.

The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research continues to conduct groundbreaking research focused on sustainable mobility, advanced vehicle safety, hybrid and electric powertrains, and intelligent transportation systems.

And just as the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering preliminary policies governing connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), the State of Ohio is building a central government hub to facilitate partnerships with private industry and economic development entities to drive Ohio’s preparation and leadership in transportation technology. The Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and is collaborating with entities such as JobsOhio to spur CAV development and deployment; develop best practices for other states to follow, gather input and evaluate current laws and regulations; make strategic recommendations on technology, and identify innovative financing opportunities for CAV technologies.

Finally, Ohio has entered a collaboration with Michigan and Pennsylvania in the Smart Belt Coalition of transportation agencies and academic institutions. The coalition is designed to allow states to share research and resources and make the region more competitive with other parts of the country in attracting jobs and investments.

All of these assets – a foundational automotive industry, evolved research capabilities, favorable geography and climate, growing prominence in technological innovation and robust state support for new companies locating to Ohio – position the state to become ground zero for advancing autonomous vehicle technology.

This article originally appeared in the Meeting of the Minds blog.