PEORIA -- Last week, Morton's AutonomouStuff started up a self-driving vehicle pilot project in downtown Peoria. But this could only be the beginning for the technology’s future in Central Illinois.
Greater Peoria Economic Development Council CEO Chris Setti says the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission applied for a $10 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to demonstrate automated driving technology earlier this year.
“This demonstration project, if funded, would be much bigger and would include both sides of the river and would really start to develop that, those systems in this region, and I think it could be incredible for the region, from an economic development perspective," said Setti.
Setti said because AutonomouStuff’s technology is “open source,” the door is open for other companies to come to Central Illinois and create new products based off their work.
For example, Setti said he read about one company which is developing a “badge” for construction workers to wear that helps autonomous vehicles avoid them.
Peoria may have a leg up on some of the competition. Autonomous passenger cars may still be an emerging industry, but they’ve been playing in Peoria for quite a while now.
Setti said Caterpillar and Komatsu have produced autonomous mining vehicles for a decade. In fact, Setti says every Komatsu vehicle produced in Peoria has self-driving capabilities.
Setti said Central Illinois should find out if it was chosen for the U.S. DOT grant in August.