Jennifer van der Kleut
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in partnership with Kratos Defense and Security Solutions Inc., Royal Truck and Equipment and Colas Ltd., has officially launched the first autonomous truck designed to follow behind road workers and protect them from traffic.
They are calling the vehicle the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV), also known as the Autonomous Truck Mounted Attenuator (ATMA).
Officials in Colorado said there have been, over the past four years, an average of seven crashes per year in which a passing motorist has hit a CDOT truck, putting the driver in danger.
“This is a dangerously high number when you consider that in some instances, a CDOT employee is sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle that was hit. By using self-driving technology, we’re able to take the driver out of harm’s way while still effectively shielding roadside workers,” said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT Executive Director, in an official statement. “Our partnership with Kratos proves that technology can take transportation safety to a new level and forever improve the way we work.”
Nationwide, according to the Federal Highway Administration, there was a crash every 5.4 minutes, 70 crash-related injuries every day, and 12 crash-related fatalities every week, in work zones in 2015, making this technology “a potentially game-changing solution for improving safety and efficiency in the work zone.”
Kratos originally developed the technology for the U.S. Army, and recently leveraged it for non-military use. Prototypes were tested on the roadways in August.
CDOT posted the following video on YouTube, showing off the truck in action.