University-Industry Engagement Week

Carnegie Mellon gets $20M in DOT funding for transportation research center

By David Schwartz
Published: June 6th, 2023

A national consortium led by Carnegie Mellon University will receive $20 million over the next five years from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish Safety21, a new University Transportation Center (UTC).

The consortium includes partners from across the U.S. who will collaborate to ensure that autonomous, networked, shared, and integrated transportation technologies and systems are developed and deployed with safety, equity, and sustainability in mind. Their work will help the U.S. compete for global leadership and domestic production of these technologies while providing training for the transportation workforce.

Other institutions involved in the consortium include Morgan State University, Ohio State, Penn, and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The Community College of Allegheny County and the Community College of Philadelphia will add workforce programs tailored for the existing and emerging transportation workforce. Safety21 will also seek inclusive input from manufacturers, users, communities, and other researchers as it takes a holistic, system-of-systems approach to advancing connected and automated vehicle technologies and intelligent infrastructure. 

In the past decade, advances in sensing technologies, computing power, and wireless communications coupled with AI and machine learning have begun to reshape the transporation industry, and electric vehicles are poised to overtake gas-powered cars. But the number of automobile fatalities remains stubbornly high at over 40,000 per year in the U.S.

New technologies promote safety, but the state-of-the-art in highly automated vehicles is not mature enough for widespread deployment. Failures of autonomy features raise legitimate questions of trust, and connectivity presents new threats to privacy and cybersecurity. The new center aims to address these issues through innovative technologies, policy frameworks, and well-trained workers. 

“This award from the U.S. Department of Transportation affirms Carnegie Mellon’s long-established leadership in developing technology and informing policy to improve our nation’s transportation network. The impact of Safety21’s research will be expanded by the center’s intentional focus on equal access to safe and sustainable transportation for all communities,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian.

The center’s research “will be shared with transportation managers, companies, and community organizations, resulting in technology transfer and deployment,” added William H. Sanders, dean of CMU’s College of Engineering.

Raj Rajkumar, CMU professor of electrical and computer engineering and a renowned researcher in autonomous vehicle technologies, will lead Safety21, which is the fourth UTC CMU has managed since 2012.

“Safety21’s project portfolio will enhance transportation safety through research, development, and deployment of breakthrough technologies and policy innovations. Additionally, we seek to broaden our impact by ensuring communities have equal access to safety technologies; evaluating energy use and emissions; and supporting domestic commercialization, entrepreneurship, and public policy to rally economic strength and global competitiveness,” said Rajkumar.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University News

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