North America’s Largest Independent Proving Grounds: The Transportation Research Center

The heart of North American automotive research since the 1970s
Kristi Tanner, senior managing director of automotive, JobsOhio
November 20, 2017

The largest, independent automotive proving grounds in North America has been pushing the limits of automotive capabilities for over 30 years. Located in East Liberty, Ohio, the Transportation Research Center (TRC) is 4,500 acres of automotive research and discovery. This is where the magic happens in testing and researching the greatest vehicles and commodities in automotive innovation.

Situated 40 minutes from Columbus and 2.5 hours from Detroit, within the center of the automotive evolution, TRC brings together industry experts and university partners with some of the biggest names in the automotive industry to.

24/7 Automotive testing in rain, snow or sunshine

At the TRC, research has few limits. Virtually every kind of vehicle testing is performed within the property, including testing for durability, reliability, safety, crash avoidance and protection, and fuel economy. Vehicles, equipment and components undergo trials 24/7, 365 days a year. Ohio’s four seasons test the capabilities of vehicles and components in rain, snow, ice and wind, and on hot, sunny days.

Testing assets include:

  • 7.5 Mile (12km) high-bank oval track
  • Dynamic handling course
  • Winding road course (with wet and dry pavement capabilities)
  • 50-acre vehicle dynamics area
  • Multiple durability tracks
  • Noise, vibration and ride quality courses
  • Brake test facility
  • Pass-by noise test facility
  • Corrosion facilities
  • Off-road mobility courses
  • Impact and crash simulation laboratories
  • Emissions and fuel systems laboratories

Everything from passenger, commercial, utility and military vehicles to all-terrain, farming, and autonomous and connected vehicles pass through the TRC. Even equipment and components such as road surfaces, barriers, safety hardware, fuels, aerospace systems, agricultural equipment and alternative powertrain systems undergo testing.

All research and information is confidential and secure. Protecting customers’ confidentiality is a top priority at TRC and allows it to be the independent test facility the industry relies on. Currently, it has over 800 customers.

Research driven by experts

Before testing, TRC evaluates requests to determine the most qualified team on hand to supervise the project. Teams will then conduct a comprehensive set of tests. TRC also offers clients access to engineering solutions that are explored and implemented by teams of highly skilled and seasoned engineers. TRC’s professionals work closely with The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Engineering and the OSU Center for Automotive Research as well as other R&D organizations worldwide to provide top-of-the-line solutions and information to clients.

Moreover, clients have access to everything else they may require during testing, including auto mechanics, test technicians, project engineering assistants, photographers and various levels of support personnel.

The epicenter of automotive safety

Within the TRC is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) only federal Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC). The VRTC works closely with the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of NHTSA’s goal to make vehicles safer, better for the environment and better for people. VRTC capabilities include:

  • Crash test dummy standardization
  • Crash avoidance testing and research
  • Cybersecurity laboratory
  • Defects analysis assessment and testing
  • Crashworthiness testing and research

The VRTC is the epicenter for the development of federal safety standards for motor vehicles.

Collaboration with academia

The TRC partners with academic institutions, including OSU College of Engineering, the OSU Center for Automotive Research and the OSU College of Medicine, in collaborative research projects. Students also come to TRC to test the vehicles they design and make. They also participate in joint research on the biomechanics of vehicle crash results. The James A. Rhodes Conference Center houses an OSU distance learning lab and a project lab where students can work remotely at the TRC while still being tied to the university.

Going SMART

One of the biggest things happening at TRC is the Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center (SMART). Made possible by $45 million in funding from the state of Ohio and OSU, the SMART center will play a big role in the testing of autonomous and connected vehicles. Industry and government input on the resources needed for the development of smart mobility influenced the design of the center.

Heading into the future

New technology and policies are impacting how transportation functions and is manufactured. Ohio is one of the only places in the nation with a heavy concentration of both traditional automotive and smart mobility. Across Ohio are initiatives, resources and assets that set the state apart from anywhere else in the United States. For one, in 2016 Columbus received funding to become the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first-ever “Smart City,” an initiative integrating data and technology to shape the future of how goods and people move.

An intelligent corridor equipped with the technology to monitor and power autonomous and connected vehicles will run from the TRC’s home in East Liberty to Columbus along Route 33. TRC is integrated into the development of design experiments, testing and validation for activities being proposed on the U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor. This project was developed by Union county, the city of Dublin, the city of Marysville, the Ohio State University, Smart Columbus development projects for autonomous vehicles, Ohio Turnpike design experiments and several projects under design with the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Since its establishment in the 1970s, the TRC has been actively playing a role by exploring and implementing new advancements in transportation and transportation equipment. Smart mobility is one of the many innovations being tested and improved at the TRC.

Ohio is both an automotive powerhouse and a driving force behind the future of automotive technology. Autonomous, connected and traditional vehicles will continue to change. As they evolve, they will have different needs, but one unifying component: the TRC.

How can TRC benefit you? I’m here to help! Email me or give me a call at 1.614.300.1389 to learn more about TRC and the other great automotive research facilities in Ohio.

Explore TRC’s incredible facility with a virtual tour.