December 2, 2020
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Three state universities are each receiving a $1 million grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to study future state-wide transportation challenges as well as develop ways to improve safety and mobility.

[Above photo via NC State University.]

The three public schools – North Carolina State University, N.C. A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – will spearhead a joint three-year research initiative starting in early 2020, with each functioning as a University Transportation Center of Excellence.

James Trogdon III

Much of that research will focus on new technology, noted North Carolina DOT Secretary James Trogdon III in a statement, which is “changing the transportation industry significantly.”

For example, he said that as North Carolina’s population continues to grow, more people are converting to electric, autonomous, and other fuel-efficient vehicles – which means the state’s main source of transportation funding, the motor fuels tax, is not sustainable.

“Disruptive technologies will reshape the transportation industry,” Trogdon – who serves as chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Rail Transportation – explained. “This research will provide North Carolina with data we need to prepare for these changes.”

NCDOT said each center will have a “unique focus” for its research grant over the next three years:

  • N.C. A&T will lead a study on connected and autonomous vehicle or CAV technology and the state’s preparedness for this technology. The NC-CAV Center will be headquartered at the university’s research campus in Greensboro and will have a dedicated test-track for autonomous vehicles. Greensboro and its transportation department are also contributing funding to the center.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Highway Safety Research Center will focus on the impact of automated vehicles and advanced technology on safety, policy, mobility and accessibility. The UNC research team will also study how autonomous vehicles will impact North Carolina’s economy and other people using the road.
  • N.C. State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education will research traffic prediction, the role of autonomous vehicle fleet management, and improving convenient, reliable and safe transportation options to rural communities and under-served individuals via its new research program.
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