Driverless Vehicles At Northern Kentucky Airport

Driverless Vehicles At Northern Kentucky Airport

HEBRON, Ky. — It’s not quite a flying car, but a van in Northern Kentucky is definitely doing things people have never seen before. 

What You Need To Know

  • Driverless technology being tested in Northern Kentucky

  • The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport hopes to begin using the technology next year

  • Luggage and cargo would be the first uses

  • Passengers could begin seeing the technology in action by early 2021

“Anything goes wrong then I just press it and then it becomes a regular car again,” said John Kim, with ThorDrive. “Right now, we’re all good to go. And we’re going to engage the autonomous mode.”

Kim is sitting behind the wheel, while his counterpart, Chris Lee, is in the passenger seat looking at a monitor.

Both are showing off a self-driving vehicle retrofitted for the van. Driverless technology is something customers at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG) will soon see.

The vehicle hosts several sensors, five cameras, both on top of the vehicle and inside, and has been mapping out the area for weeks. 

Autonomous vehicles can now operate through a recent local ordinance at the airport. 

“This technology is applicable to many different types of ground support equipment that you see at the airport,” said Edward Shelton, vice-president of business development at ThorDrive, a Cincinnati-based company. “In essence, when you’re at the airport and you see your baggage going from the plane back into the terminal, that is the first piece of technology that we’re adding to make it autonomous.”

Brian Cobb is the Chief Innovation Officer at CVG. He said they are positioning the airport for the future.

“This is just one more element to really start again with inanimate objects with baggage and cargo and really supplement staff challenges that sometimes we’ve had that sometimes. We’ve had actually pre-COVID and we fully expect when the economy does a recovery that again, maybe a challenge in the future, so we’re really future-proofing our capability to continue to grow the cargo hub and certainly our passenger airline base,” Cobb said.

ThorDrive said in the next few weeks, they will fit the technology on a tractor at the airport that carries luggage.

CVG said customers may start seeing driverless technology by the first half of 2021. 

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