NCDOT announces grants for university research projects to improve transportation

RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation has selected research programs at three public universities to each receive $1 million grants to study future transportation challenges in North Carolina and develop ways to improve safety and mobility.

North Carolina State University, N.C. A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will spearhead the multi-university research initiatives over the next three years. These new, three-year research programs will begin in early 2020.

The research initiative is known as the University Transportation Centers of Excellence. The three universities leading the research will work with transportation experts at Appalachian State University, North Carolina Central University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Duke University and Fayetteville State University.

“Disruptive technologies will reshape the transportation industry,” said state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon. “This research will provide North Carolina with data we need to prepare for these changes.”

Much of the research will focus on new technology, which is changing the transportation industry significantly. As North Carolina’s populations grows, more people are converting to electric, autonomous and other fuel-efficient vehicles. That means that transportation’s main source of funding – the motor fuels tax – is not sustainable.

“North Carolina is uniquely positioned to perform research on transportation technology and enable the progress and improvement of transportation systems while improving on the mobility and safety of our citizens,” said David Howard, chief deputy secretary for the N.C. Department of Transportation. “This research should lead to North Carolina having competitive advantages in a global economy.”

Each center will have a unique focus in the following areas:

— N.C. A&T will lead a study on connected and autonomous vehicle 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. For more information, see: https://www.ncat.edu/news/2019/12/nc-cav-funded-by-ncdot-2019.php.

— 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. For more information, see: https://www.hsrc.unc.edu/news/announcements/hsrc-to-lead-ncdot-center-of-excellence/.

— 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 underserved individuals. For more information, see: https://research.ncsu.edu/blog/2019/12/ncdot-center-congestion/.