Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) hosted a demonstration of autonomous vehicle technology at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown. The vehicles are being tested this week on low-volume roads in the Park as the initial phase of a pilot project scheduled to launch in Providence this spring.
The debut of the autonomous vehicles is the latest step in a multi-agency effort called the Rhode Island Transportation Innovation Partnership (TRIP), which RIDOT launched in 2017. TRIP also includes a research component, with the goal of studying autonomous mobility solutions, ridership, workforce impacts, environmental impacts, and technology adoption, among others.
The research being conducted in this pilot project will help the Department better understand the opportunities and challenges that come with integrating this new technology onto Rhode Island roads. The research will help improve transit and provide information for communities, the workforce, and policymakers.
The testing period in Quonset will be followed by similar testing in Providence, prior to the start of service. This includes testing of the vehicles and all their sensors and a rigorous acceptance testing protocol in which the vehicles must pass several safety tests including adhering to lanes, avoiding obstacles, and safe operations in both daytime and nighttime conditions as well as in different types of adverse weather. Between the two locations, the fleet will undergo 500 miles of testing.