The massive $496 million reconstruction of the I-94 North-South freeway that widens the road from three lanes to four in each direction is being built with infrastructure for an altogether different motoring experience.
Vehicles that handle some of the duties of driving.
The 18.5-mile upgrade that runs from south of College Avenue to Highway 142 in Kenosha County is intended to ease congestion on a roadway where traffic is expected to grow from a current range of 83,000 to 153,000 vehicles a day to 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles daily by 2034, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Another key focus, state officials say, is that the upgrade will help Foxconn Technology Group automate the shipping of goods and people for its Mount Pleasant campus, and move freight from Mitchell International Airport to operations in Racine County.
The tech upgrades being built into the freeway were a key selling point when Wisconsin received a $160 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Transportation in June.
Autonomous driving faces hurdles
But the rollout of so-called autonomous technology, which allows vehicles to drive themselves or take over some functions of driving, is uncertain.
Widespread autonomous driving still faces regulatory hurdles as the automotive industry wrestles with a host of issues, including fatalities in some test cars such as those involving Uber and Tesla.
A Wisconsin DOT spokesman said his agency can’t say what types of new driving innovations will be in place when all eight lanes of I-94 open by Memorial Day 2020 or when work is finished in 2021.
“Nobody knows for certain at this time,” said Michael Pyritz of the DOT. “This is a rapidly evolving technology.”
In a statement, Foxconn did not provide specific timelines for the use of autonomous vehicles. But the Taiwan-based company said it views the technology as an integral part of its $10 billion operation that will produce liquid crystal display panels.
Foxconn said its first building will be completed by the end of this year and expects some business operations to start then or in early 2019