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Virginia Tech Transportation Institute receives University Transportation Center Tier 1 Grant

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 5, 2012 – The United States Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration has awarded funds in the amount of $3.5 million to establish a multidisciplinary program of transportation research, education, and technology transfer for a Tier 1 University Transportation Center to be headquartered at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Additional external funding is expected to bring the total program at the institute to approximately $7 million through January 2014.

“It has been one of our long-term goals to become the lead university in a Tier 1 University Transportation Center,” said Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Director Tom Dingus. “We have been part of a consortium in the past, but leading the effort shows the strides we have made in becoming a national leader in transportation research.”

The University Transportation Center will be focused on basic and applied research, education and workforce development, and technology transferred centered upon what is perhaps the technical area with the greatest potential to make a significant impact on the future of transportation safety – the Connected Vehicle/Infrastructure environment.

The Connected Vehicle/Infrastructure environment provides an unprecedented opportunity to solve a number of transportation problems by enabling the sharing of real-time information across vehicles and infrastructure elements. Robust communication between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle), infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure), and devices (vehicle-to-device) will enable applications addressing the United States Transportation Department’s strategic goals of safety, state of good repair, economic competiveness, livable communities, and environmental sustainability.

Each of the surface modal administrations, along with many vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, are actively engaged in advancing this technology. A primary reason for this advancement is the ability of the connected vehicle technology to share high quality data derived from information that currently resides on vehicles and at the roadside via low-cost, dedicated radios.

For example, vehicles can communicate via connected vehicle technology their relative positions and their reasonably accurate absolute positions relative to the roadway environment, thus enabling the implementation of numerous applications such as forward collision warning, lane-change warning, road departure warning, and curve speed warning without the use of expensive radar, sonar or machine-vision sensors.

The Research and Innovative Technology Administration, which administers the University Transportation Center program, used a competitive selection process to select 10 University Transportation Centers, two Transit-Focused Centers, and t10 Regional Centers. The centers will advance transportation technology and expertise in research, education, and technology transfer. Each of the selected centers will receive a $3.5 million grant which they must match with funds from non-federal sources. The 22 centers selected are all consortia, involving a total of 121 different universities.

"Transportation matters in everyone’s daily life. These research centers will help us solve the transportation challenges we face today and those that we know lay ahead of us," said United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The connected vehicle University Transportation Center will focus on the development, assessment, and improvement of connected-vehicle systems and applications. Basic and applied research will be used to investigate and address relevant knowledge gaps about the successful deployment of connected vehicle applications aimed at improving safety, the state of good repair, economic competitiveness, livable communities, and environmental issues. Such research will employ a variety of unique tools and test beds developed or enhanced as part of this grant.

"We are excited about the proposals these consortia put forward. They have the potential to advance basic and applied transportation research today and ensure a robust pipeline of professionals for the transportation workforce of tomorrow," said RITA acting administrator Greg Winfree. "It is absolutely crucial that we continue to invest in research, which has the added benefit of attracting and developing the high level of professionals needed for innovation and expertise in transportation.”

This consortium consists of Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, and Morgan State University and will guided by a group of stakeholders, many of which are experts in the connected vehicle domain.

State-of-the-art facilities available to the consortium and its partners will provide a diverse set of testing capabilities ensuring that an array of research needs will be addressed. Formal processes for the dissemination of results will ensure technology transfer, and the inclusion of a diverse student representation will foster education and workforce development.

The outcomes from the research conducted by the center will assist transportation safety experts across the globe in their efforts to create a connected transportation network thereby making a landmark impact on the future of transportation safety research.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducts research to save lives, time, money, and protect the environment. One of the seven university-level research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute continually advances transportation through innovation and has impacted public policy on the national and international level.