Olivia Mannix moved to Colorado from the New York tri-state area to attend the University of Colorado Boulder, and then moved to Denver to start a marketing company for the recently legalized cannabis industry.
She didn't expect the traffic to follow her.
"Traffic has gotten progressively worse over the years and probably will only get worse," said Mannix, 27. Construction from new businesses and a greater volume of vehicles on the roads over the last four years have gradually added to Mannix's Denver commute time.
Colorado, a boom state that is growing much faster than planners expected, faces a complex road problem. Its highways were built for a population of 3 million -- which it hit 25 years ago -- and its mountainous geography puts constraints on road expansion.
So state officials are looking at other solutions, and they may have found one: autonomous vehicles.
On Oct. 20, the state made a bold move and hosted the first driverless 18-wheeler on its highways, traveling 120 miles between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs with a load of more than 50,000 cans of Budweiser. The trip was the result of a partnership between self-driving truck startup Otto -- owned by Uber -- and Anheuser-Busch to demonstrate the benefits of autonomous truck shipping.
It also was made possible by RoadX, a state-sponsored technology initiative aimed at encouraging ideas to solve Colorado's growing infrastructure woes.
"We have an opportunity to use technology to help solve our capacity issue," said Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. "RoadX is about appealing to the private sector and other places, asking what are the best ideas you have, and bringing them into Colorado."
Much of Colorado's growing gridlock is the result of an aging highway structure and a booming population.
"We have an interstate system designed in the '50s, built in the '60s for a population in the '80s that people thought would be 3 million," Bhatt said. Colorado's population is now 5.5 million, according to Census Bureau estimates.
Many states respond to growth by building new roads, but Colorado hopes technology will ease the traffic problem.
The state launched RoadX in October 2015 to take advantage of the investments automakers and technology companies are making to get autonomous and connected vehicles on the road. Though these companies have established offices and technology centers in other states, Bhatt said Colorado can serve as a deployment area once these technologies are ready for public use.
California and Michigan have attracted most of the innovative transportation tech companies, Bhatt said, so Colorado needed to take a different approach.