Special Topics in Safety Management

The World’s First Self-Driving Work Zone Vehicle

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has unveiled a first-of-its kind work zone vehicle designed to improve safety for maintenance crews. Known as the Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV), it is positioned behind road construction crews to protect them from the traveling public. It increases safety by removing the driver from a truck that is actually designed to be hit.

media point inc / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Adapted from military technology, the vehicle uses a rear-mounted attenuator (crash cushion) to absorb or defect vehicles that cross into a work zone.

CDOT and partners recently put the AIPV through its paces during a live roadway striping project in Fort Collins.

Says CDOT executive director Shailen Bhatt, “Just in the last 4 years, there have been 26 incidents where a member of the traveling public struck a CDOT impact protection vehicle. 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.” Bhatt says self-driving technology removes the driver while the vehicle shields the workers.

Between 2000 and 2014, Colorado saw 21,898 crashes and 171 fatalities in work zones. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in work zones in 2015 there was a crash every 5.4 minutes. The AIPV is designed to reduce those numbers by using technology that mimics the position, speed, and direction of a lead vehicle. It transmits a signal to the trailing driverless vehicle, ensuring the AIPV is always correctly positioned between workers and live traffic.