Colorado tests out autonomous roadwork truck

First-of-its kind work-zone vehicle designed to protect road crews

Published: August 27, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:08 PM


We’ve been hearing for some time how autonomous vehicles are supposed to make roads safer, but the State of Colorado is taking the safety initiative to a whole new level with an autonomous roadwork vehicle.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has unveiled a first-of-its kind work-zone vehicle designed to protect road maintenance crews. The Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV) is positioned behind road construction crews and its duty is to protect workers and one of the workers it will protect is the driver who would normally be driving the truck that is designed to take the hit from road users who venture into work zones.

“Just in the last four years, there have been 26 incidents where a member of the traveling public struck a CDOT impact protection vehicle,” said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT Executive Director. “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.”

According to 2015 statistics from the US Federal Highway Administration, there was, on average a work-zone crash every 5.4 minutes, 70 crash-related injuries per day, and 12 crash-related fatalities every week. And between 2000 and 2014, Colorado saw 21,898 work-zone crashes, resulting in 171 fatalities.

CDOT, and its partners — Colas UK, Royal Truck & Equipment and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions — adapted military technology in creating the AIPV, which mimics the position, speed and direction of the lead vehicle. The two vehicles communicate vehicle to vehicle to ensure the AIPV is always correctly positioned between workers and traffic.

Extensive CDOT testing has shown the AIPV’s ability to stay in its lane, make tight turns, detect objects and execute and emergency stop.

“We know autonomous impact protection vehicles will change the safety standards in this industry, and these passionate partners will help advance the cause,” said Rob Roy, President of Royal Truck & Equipment.

The AIPV, which includes the industry’s largest variable message board, was built by Royal Truck & Equipment, with Kratos Defense developing the hardware and software for its driverless capability. Colas, a UK private civil engineering, maintenance and construction services company, is testing the technology in the UK and shares testing and results with CDOT.

“We are dedicated to advancing health and safety issues and will continue to invest in cutting-edge research and development projects to benefit our employees, clients and the wider industry,” said Lee Rushbrooke, Colas CEO. “We are extremely excited about this new technology and are looking forward to giving this a global reach to save lives of road workers across the world.”

“The primary objective of the Kratos Defense Unmanned Systems Division has always been to develop advanced robotic and autonomous systems utilized to ensure the safety of the Warfighter by eliminating the need for them to perform dull, dirty, and often dangerous tasks,” said Maynard Factor of Kratos Defense and Security Solutions. “Partnering with Royal Truck & Equipment, CDOT and Colas to leverage the technology we originally developed for the US Military to now serve the road construction industry and enhance safety in the work zone is a great achievement and we are proud to be a part of the team.”