TRC opens first part of SMARTCenter

Testing automated vehicles requires a bit of restraint on the part of technicians running the scenarios.

trc demo

Blaine Ricketts of Bellefontaine maneuvers a Tesla around a Softcar 360 during a demonstration of Transportation Research Center Inc.’s high speed intersection at the SMARTCenter on Wednesday. EXAMINER PHOTO | JOEL E. MAST

 “You have to hold yourself back from taking evasive action,” said Blaine Ricketts, an engineer at Transportation Research Center Inc.’s SMARTCenter who drove a Tesla during a crash avoidance demonstration at Wednesday’s grand opening.

“Your tendency is to hit the brakes, but you have to let the test vehicle do it.” Ricketts, who is part of TRC’s Advanced Mobility Group, was tasked with accelerating the car up to 45 mph into the SMARTCenter’s multilane, high-speed intersection.

As he approached from the west, others operated cars, vans and buses at speeds of 15 to 20 mph through intersection from the north, east and west.

The “danger” for Ricketts came from the south in the form of a Softcar 360 which meets international standards for such testing. It entered the intersection under remote control at 14 mph without regard for a red light into path. Ricketts had to force himself to keep his foot on the accelerator and steer around the Softcar as the Tesla’s avoidance systems cut the car’s speed and applied emergency braking.

This will be a recurring scenario as TRC welcomes automotive manufacturers and suppliers to its 4,500-acre campus to test the latest in smart mobility technology.

“This is where every company in the world should want to come,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “The research that is done here and in Ohio will affect every human being in the world who lives were there are cars.”

He noted the center will be tied into the U.S. Route 33 smart corridor and to The Ohio State University and its research facilities in Columbus.

Together, the resources will provide automakers and tier one suppliers a massive, complex environment for testing the future of personal transportation, he said.

TRC broke ground on the SMARTCenter a year ago. Now, the control center is up to host technicians, vehicles and companies along with the high-speed intersection.

Those are two parts of phase one, TRC President and CEO Brett Roubinek said. Excavating work has begun on the third part, an urban network of streets that will include cul-de-sacs and roundabouts, which will be followed by a 22 1/2-acre pad of asphalt that will be the vehicle dynamic test area.

Phase two will be a 400,000-square-foot, year-round inclement weather indoor facility. Roubinek said

Read the full story in Thursday's Examiner.