There’s No Place Better than Ohio for Smart Mobility

Ohio has the right mix of resources to research, test and, ultimately, bring to market smart mobility technologies
Kristi Tanner, senior managing director of automotive, JobsOhio
November 20, 2017

When it comes to smart mobility, no other state can claim the combination of resources that exist in Ohio. We have an unparalleled mix of physical assets, research partners, controlled and open-road test facilities, smart city initiatives and funding opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.

We have something else, our secret ingredient, if you will: the energy that comes from a growing ecosystem of industry, university, nonprofit and government partners who are willing to share, learn and collaborate to find smart mobility solutions. Together, we’re creating a living lab for autonomous and connected vehicles built on an open platform. The energy this has created is contagious, and as news of our initiatives spreads, more partners join. We invite others to come along for the ride as we make history in Ohio.

If you’re not convinced, just look at the major developments announced in the past year that position the state as one of the U.S. leaders in the area of smart mobility. The Transportation Research Center (TRC) announced a $45 million investment to build a Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test (SMART) Center. Self-driving trucks traveled along the Ohio Turnpike and the 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 dubbed the Smart Mobility Corridor. Singularity University launched its “Smart City Accelerator” in Columbus. Most recently, the Ohio Dept. of Transportation launched DriveOhio, a statewide center for smart mobility that will serve as the epicenter for all things autonomous and connected in Ohio.

The strength of Ohio’s auto industry has laid the foundation for our success in the creation, testing, deployment and commercialization of innovative technologies that drive smart mobility. We already have the automakers, the suppliers, the R&D, the business climate and the automotive, engineering and IT talent. These existing assets make Ohio a logical choice to launch smart mobility initiatives.

The SMART Center at the TRC is one of those initiatives. The TRC, already the largest independent automotive proving grounds in North America, is building the 540-acre SMART Center specifically to research, develop and test autonomous and connected vehicles.

Then there’s Smart Columbus. In 2016, Columbus won the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, beating 77 cities nationwide. The award came with a $40 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and a $10 million grant from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. to develop, deploy and share lessons learned about smart mobility innovations that improve the quality of life for residents of central Ohio. Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has his sights set on raising $1 billion for Smart Columbus by the end of 2020. More than $500 million has already been committed.

Up the road from Columbus, the city of Marysville is serving as a test bed for connected technologies. The city is installing smart traffic signals that will communicate with at least 1,200 personal and government vehicles outfitted with onboard units, all with the goal of managing signal timing and preventing collisions. The Marysville project complements a Smart Columbus pilot to deploy 3,500 connected vehicles in Franklin County, bringing the total number of connected vehicles in the region to nearly 5,000.

Meanwhile, three Ohio roads covering 104 miles are being outfitted with fiber-optic cables and roadside sensors to permit open-road testing of autonomous and connected vehicles: the U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor between Columbus and East Liberty (35 miles), the Ohio Turnpike (60 miles) and the I-670 Smart Lane in Columbus (nine miles). Another road, a 60-mile stretch of I-90 northeast of Cleveland called the Lake Effect Corridor, will be outfitted with cellular, wired and/or satellite technology.

Singularity University, an organization aimed at tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges, launched its Smart City Accelerator in Columbus in May. Singularity chose Columbus as the site of this first-of-its-kind accelerator because, as the winner of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, Columbus is at the heart of the smart city movement. It is the only one that Singularity has outside of Silicon Valley. The accelerator worked with 10 startup companies involved in mobility, connectivity, data analytics, infrastructure and/or manufacturing, providing access to experts, mentors, funding and proven tools for innovation.

The list of assets and resources in Ohio goes on. The Ohio State University, for example, is home to the Center for Automotive Research, the pre-eminent research center in the U.S. for sustainable and safe mobility. Ohio is part of the Smart Belt Coalition, a cooperative effort among state agencies and academic institutions in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan aimed at creating a smart corridor that will run from the East Coast to Detroit and Chicago. Hyperloop One named the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route as one of four in the U.S. and 10 worldwide where it will develop its ultrafast tube transportation system.

Ohio’s geography, location, weather conditions, and mix of urban and rural areas provide a diverse landscape for researchers and manufacturers to test and develop smart transportation technologies. The state offers a competitive business climate and regulatory environment that’s conducive to innovations in smart mobility. Ohio also has a thriving auto industry and a well-trained and highly educated workforce ready to design, test and build smart mobility solutions.

Ohio’s collection of assets and resources is hard to beat. So, for anyone involved in smart mobility, including autonomous and connected technologies, innovation has a place in Ohio. Make Ohio home.