Washtenaw Community College will continue to partner in University of Michigan-led regional efforts aimed at transitioning the nation to connected and automated vehicles — bolstered by a new $15 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), it was announced today.
That grant renews and expands the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation (CCAT), based in Ann Arbor. The partnership now brings together nine colleges and universities to focus on significantly advancing the U.S. transportation system with emerging technologies that address safety and sustainability.
“We look forward to continuing the important work we began six years ago, as the only community college represented within the CCAT consortium,” said Washtenaw Community College President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.
WCC’s unique role is to prepare students for emerging mobility jobs, including those in automotive connectivity (V2X), cybersecurity and Smart Cities networks (infrastructure) by developing and adapting curriculum and training programs informed by research of CCAT partners.
Established in 2016 and funded with $15.76 million over its first six years, CCAT is one of 10 regional USDOT University Transportation Centers nationwide. Since that time, the center, which originally included six institutions, has produced a broad range of research that includes:
- The creation of an augmented reality testing environment to help train autonomous vehicles how to respond to dangerous traffic incidents.
- Combining human capabilities and artificial intelligence to create “instantaneous crowdsourcing” to back up onboard autonomous systems.
- Platooning connected and automated freight trucks to reduce traffic delays and wear and tear on roads.
- Using data from sensors at intersections to augment the data provided by on-vehicle sensors to more accurately identify and locate pedestrians and other vehicles.
CCAT partners also engaged with over 400 undergraduate and graduate students and oversaw the creation of several educational courses for kindergarten level through college. The courses reached students at WCC, Purdue University and U-M.
“Our University Transportation Center’s work has had a profound impact on the U.S. driving environment — from reduced traffic congestion to improvements in the safety testing of AVs,” said Henry Liu, director of both CCAT and Mcity, a U-M-led public-private mobility research partnership, and a U-M professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We’ve also made strides in preparing a workforce for the continued development and deployment of connected and automated transportation technologies.”
Headquartered in Ann Arbor, the center sits near the heart of the U.S. auto industry and represents Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as Michigan.
“CCAT has also collaborated heavily with industry to establish Southeast Michigan and the Midwest as the definitive regions for connected and automated transportation and mobility,” said Liu.
Original CCAT members include U-M, WCC, Purdue, the University of Akron, the University of Illinois and Central State University in Ohio. The new additions are Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin.
“The renewal of CCAT is critical to our mission to bring safe, equitable and efficient transportation solutions to individuals and communities around the world,” said Jim Sayer, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), where CCAT is housed.
“Over the next five years, CCAT will continue this vital research with our new partners from Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as create more opportunities for underrepresented students through the creation of the Internship Student Program in Research Engineering,” Sayer added.
WCC’s focus areas will include workforce development, K-12 STEM education/awareness in transportation technologies and outreach activities related to CCAT objectives. Specifically, activities include:
- Development and capacity building of Transportation Technologies (Automotive & Infrastructure) programs, including laboratory testing capabilities enhancing education/training in technology applications.
- Development and capacity building of Automotive/Infrastructure Intelligent Transportation [IT] curricula, including automotive communications, networking and cybersecurity programs. Particular emphasis will be made in the Automotive Cybersecurity program development and laboratory experiences.
- Development and capacity building of non-credit incumbent worker occupational skill upgrades for professional development, especially in view of occupational requirements of the SMART cities ecosystem. Specific occupational areas involve fiber optics cable for data transmission, data analytics, cybersecurity, and more.
- K-12 STEM technology awareness through camps and workshops, particularly emphasizing STEM education for underserved, rural and diverse communities, such as the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti and others.
- Participation with Square One Education Network in Innovations in Automotive Design and Masters of Mobility in regional and rural Middle/High Schools, with their vehicle project construction and development. Near the end of the school year, WCC will support a performance challenge event, scheduled in the spring at Kettering University’s GM Test Track.
- Outreach events will be scheduled to engage industry and communities with WCC’s Advanced Transportation Center’s Connected/Automated Vehicle programs and provide student engagement opportunities.
CCAT is part of an expansive University of Michigan portfolio of research tied to the future of mobility. In September 2022, the National Science Foundation awarded $5.1 million to Mcity to enhance its test facility, which opened in 2015 as the world’s first purpose-built test environment for connected and autonomous vehicles. The augmented reality testing environment developed by CCAT is deployed there.
Mcity is developing next-generation digital infrastructure for AV testing and training, adding new virtual reality software and using real-world datasets to create tailor-made simulation scenarios for AVs. The system will eventually be available for remote tests by researchers in the U.S.