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$3.5 Million Grant to Improve Safety and Efficiency of Transportation

February 28, 2012, Volume 58, No. 24

The US Department of Transportation has awarded Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering and the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science a $3.5 million grant for the next two years to conduct research and implement technologies for improving the safety and efficiency of transportation.

Through this new University Transportation Center, Carnegie Mellon and Penn will explore cutting-edge technologies that could influence everything from the safety of vehicles and roads to the analysis of traffic flow. The consortium also will establish a workforce development program to train graduate students in modern transportation-related technologies and policymaking.

This Carnegie Mellon/Penn UTC for Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation, or T-SET UTC, a Tier-1 national center, will be located at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Ragunathan (Raj) Rajkumar, the George Westinghouse Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon, will serve as the director of the UTC.

"State-of-the-art computing and communication technologies can significantly advance the safety and efficiency of transportation, since extending the physical infrastructure is both very expensive and limited by existing road layouts," Dr. Rajkumar said.

He also said that the new center taps a broad swath of new and ongoing research at both universities.

"The idea behind the center was to bring together computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering to do research that will impact how people commute, drive and move around the country," said Dr. Daniel Lee, an associate professor in Penn Engineering and the lead Penn faculty member on the proposal.

Dr. Lee's research on autonomous cars, intelligent vehicles that "drive themselves," may play a role in some of the center's activities. Penn's School of Design also was involved in preparing the grant application.

Research in the areas of vehicular information technologies, autonomous vehicles, enhancements for safer driving and the development of novel human-vehicle interactions without overloading the driver will be a large part of the center's work. Technology deployment, collaboration and diversity of the technical workforce will also be key goals of the center.

At Carnegie Mellon, the new center will also engage work underway by Traffic 21, a multidisciplinary research team working to design and deploy information and communications for improving safer and more economic transportation solutions that could ultimately save more than 30,000 lives lost each year in traffic accidents.

The Carnegie Mellon/Penn UTC was chosen as one of 22 grant recipients out of 63 applicants in a competitive process aimed at eliciting transformative transportation research from the nation's universities. A consortium called CT-SET will be associated with the T-SET UTC. This consortium has partnered with more than 20 private, government and non-profit organizations, including the Hillman Foundation, the City of Philadelphia and the City of Pittsburgh, among others.

Almanac - February 28, 2012, Volume 58, No. 24