Self-driving trucks on I-5? Washington and Oregon is nation’s best place for them, report says
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Interstate 5 in Washington and Oregon ranks first nationally in a study by a traffic-research company of the best corridors to operate self-driving semitrucks.
Of all the freeways in the U.S., the most productive corridor for self-driving trucks appears to be Interstate 5 through Washington and Oregon, says a report released this week by the Kirkland-based INRIX data company. Runners-up are I-95 from Jacksonville to Miami, Florida; I-75 from Valdosta, Georgia, to Miami; I-70 from Utah to Kansas, and I-85 from northeast Georgia to Greensboro, North Carolina, where companies could reduce the cost to move freight once self-driving vehicle technologies are ready. INRIX looked at four criteria to make the rankings. Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »First, I-5 carries a lot of freight. State counts show nearly 21,000 daily truck trips through Tacoma and 12,000 at Longview. Second, the highway is less congested than several other U.S. freeways on a 24-hour basis to operate trucks — despite INRIX’s own assertion this spring that Everett experiences the nation’s worst peak-time highway delays. Congestion eases throughout southern Washington and southern Oregon for interstate trips. Third, the corridor is long — some 637 miles between Vancouver, B.C., and Yreka, California, where a self-guided truck could roll for hours at a time.

Finally, high incident rates throughout I-5 can cause sudden slowdowns. Autonomous trucks may be more valuable in avoiding secondary crashes if they can “see farther ahead” and reduce speed sooner than human drivers, said INRIX spokesman Mark Burfeind.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @MikeLindblom. Staff reporter Mike Lindblom covers transportation for The Seattle Times.
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