COLUMBUS (AP) – Republican Gov. John Kasich created a statewide center Thursday to advance Ohio’s efforts to become a national leader in autonomous vehicle research and smart road technology.
His executive order establishing DriveOhio comes a day after aides say he successfully pitched the idea at the Detroit Auto Show. Automakers there are sharing the latest ideas for robotic cars.
Kasich said in a phone interview that the office will be a “one-stop shopping for anybody who’s interested” in autonomous or connected vehicle development.
“What we’re trying to do now is to make sure we have standard ways of dealing with this amazing development we’re seeing in transportation,” he said.
Kasich’s order calls for DriveOhio to be led by an executive director appointed by Ohio’s state transportation director.
That person would establish formal liaisons with the state departments of transportation, public safety, administrative services and insurance, the state workforce transformation office, the adjutant general and the heads of the Ohio Turnpike and Public Utilities commissions.
The office also will confer with advisory boards of government leaders and experts.
Kasich uses the six-page order to lay out his case for Ohio’s position as a national leader. He says Ohio has always been a leader in new transportation modes “because the safe and easy movement of people and goods from place to place is a cornerstone of our economic success.”
He said the Wright brothers’ early developments in flight were initially overlooked and Ohio will be paying attention this time.
“We don’t want to be left behind,” he said. “We want to be sure that we are moving at the speed of this technology.”
He also notes that 60 percent of the North American population is within a single day’s drive of Ohio and that the state is already home to the Transportation Research Center, the continent’s largest independent automotive proving ground and the only research and test lab for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The governor says Ohio has invested more than $14 billion in transportation infrastructure improvements over the past seven years, but Ohio roads still saw 300,000 crashes in 2016 – most serious ones tied to driver errors.
Studies show up to 8 in 10 of those accidents involving unimpaired drivers could be avoided or mitigated with advanced transportation technologies.
Executives at the Auto Show have said they see self-driving ride services and driverless cars in the future, but they can’t say exactly when they will be in widespread use. Until then, they are continuing to invest in traditional vehicles and smart technology advances simultaneously.