Biden-Harris Administration Announces More Than $11 Million In Grants To Support Automated Technology Research

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced $11.6 million to support six transit bus automation research projects that will improve safety, efficiency, and accessibility on the road and in bus maintenance yards. Examples of projects include strategies for avoiding collisions with pedestrians, improved emergency braking, and precision movement for bus fueling, charging, and maintenance.

“Advancements in technology can go a long way toward creating a safer and more efficient transit system,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said. “The innovative research projects we are funding represent an important step toward integrating state-of-the-art automation technology into real-world settings, helping transit agencies protect their operators and riders as well as vulnerable road users.”

As part of the programs, recipients will demonstrate technologies that reduce bus collisions, improve facility operations, and improve the accessibility and efficiency of service. Many of the projects include workforce analysis and training activities to address how automation may impact existing jobs and help operators and maintenance workers develop new skills.

Among the selected automation projects:

  • CapMetro in Austin, TX, will receive nearly $950,000 to integrate vehicle automation in an advanced yard management system and run heavy-duty vehicle demonstrations at its operations facility. The project includes a bus automation workforce analysis to address how bus yard automation may impact existing roles and create demand for new positions.
  • Connecticut Department of Transportation will receive $2 million to expand an FTA-sponsored transit automation program along the CTfastrak bus rapid transit corridor. The project will incorporate collision avoidance, precision docking assist, and more to enhance safety and accessibility throughout the CTfastrak local bus network.
  • University of Alabama will receive $2 million to test automation technologies for large transit buses using a lab simulation environment and real-world tests to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and equity impacts of the technology.
  • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will receive nearly $893,000 to test retrofitting a bus to operate autonomously. This will allow for routing bus yard tasks to be done more efficiently, such as automated parking and recall.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will receive more than $4.5 million to publicly demonstrate and collect data on a forward automatic braking, pedestrian collision avoidance, and more to enhance safety for buses.
  • Colorado Department of Transportation will receive more than $1.2 million to demonstrate ADAS technology in three retrofitted buses that serve critical rural transit routes.

“As described in the agency’s Strategic Transit Automation Research (STAR) Plan, FTA continues to explore the use of automation technologies in bus systems to improve safety, increase efficiency, and enhance the customer experience,” according to a press release. “Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has adopted a holistic Safe Systems Approach as the guiding paradigm of the National Roadway Safety Strategy which was launched last year. The strategy aims to ultimately get to zero deaths on America’s roads. These investments help advance the FTA’s STAR plan and improve safety.”

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