The U.S. Department of Transportation recently disbursed $4.925 million in grants to four new Tier 1 University Transportation Centers or UTCs; money aimed at advancing research and education programs to address critical national transportation challenges.
The USDOT noted in a statement that the new UTC research projects being funded by those grants – projects that will be conducted over the next 18 to 24 months – are:
- A $1.925 million “highly automated” transportation systems research project led by Ohio State University in consortium with the University of California, Irvine, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Cincinnati.
- A $1 million communications technology and e-commerce effects on travel demand study headed up by Northwestern University in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Texas, Austin.
- A $1 million implications of accessible automated vehicles and mobility services for people with disabilities project led by the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and the Catholic University of America.
- A $1 million strategic implications of changing public transportation travel trends study headed up by the Georgia Institute of Technology in partnership with the University of Tennessee, the University of Kentucky, and Brigham Young University.
The USDOT noted that only U.S. non-profit institutions of higher education are eligible to be members of a proposed UTC consortium, though that designation may include qualifying two-year institutions.
One example of how such grants fund research that results in “real-world” transportation innovation comes from the University of Minnesota, which developed a driver-assist system that packages GPS, digital mapping, vehicle-mounted sensors, and feedback loops to help snowplow drivers keep their vehicles safely on the road – even in low-visibility conditions.
The UTC program – established by the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 – helps “advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches,” USDOT noted.
In 2019, the USDOT provided north of $60 million in funds to 32 UTCs.