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How new technology hopes to prevent roadside worker deaths

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CHICAGO (CBS 58) – It's been three months since a Milwaukee DPW worker was killed on the job.

54-year-old Bryan Rodriguez was filling a pothole behind his work truck when he was hit by a car in February.

Now, experts are using technology in a new driverless truck in an effort to prevent similar deaths.

“We want to remove the person from the unsafe situation,” Kratos Defense business development director Maynard Factor said.

Right now, many counties and states use a vehicle that follows workers and their trucks to act as a crash barrier. However, the driver in the following vehicle is at risk if there is a crash.

Developers say the autonomous TMA truck is the world’s first autonomous work zone vehicle. It was developed in a partnership between Kratos Defense and Royal Truck & Equipment.

The driverless truck is controlled by a person in the leading vehicle.

“They have a camera in there that allows them to watch the vehicle behind them,” Factor said. “They have different controls and command functions that they can do to operate the unmanned vehicle.”

The driverless truck is being used right now in Colorado and England. We’re told developers are also in talks with Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation.

“We develop the technology so it is affordable,” Factor said. “We use existing trucks that the counties and the states already own and re retrofit them.”

Factor says he expects to have the technology up and running in five states by the end of the year.

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