NCDOT Funds Center of Excellence in Advanced Transportation Technology at N.C. A&T

A research team at N.C. A&T in collaboration with NCSU and UNCC was selected by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to establish the NC Transportation Center of Excellence in Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Technology (NC-CAV). This $1 million research grant supports a three-year effort which will commence Feb 1, 2020. “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.”

Ali Car GraphicNC-CAV brings together a strong and diverse team of transportation-related expertise from N.C. A&T, in collaboration with researchers from North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“Connected and autonomous vehicles will revolutionize transportation systems and   promise increased capacity, reliability, affordability, and sustainability,” says Dr. Karimoddini, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. “For example, self-driving shuttles will soon become an integral part of the transportation system of smart cities. In time, traditional traffic lights may go by the wayside, with connected and autonomous vehicles communicating with one another and with infrastructure to traverse non-signalized intersections without long stops behind red lights.”

The NC-CAV project, directed by Dr. Karimoddini, incorporates three interwoven research thrusts that will progress in parallel:

  • Thrust 1, led by Dr. Wei Fan (UNCC), will investigate the impact of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) on North Carolina’s transportation system and associated revenue.
  • Thrust 2, led by Mr. Thomas Chase (NCSU), will assess North Carolina’s readiness for CAVs in traditional and emerging transportation infrastructure.
  • Thrust 3, led by Dr. Abdollah Homaifar (N.C. A&T), will explore emerging applications of CAVs, and develop and deploy CAVs and Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) for advancing transportation systems.

Other researchers involved in this research include Drs. John Kelly, Steven Jiang, Leila Hashemi Beni, and Abdullah Eroglu from NCA&T, and Drs. Nagui Rouphail, Chris Cunningham, Ali Hajbabaie, Shih-Chun Lin, Daniel Findley, Steve Bert, and Nicolas Norboge from NCSU who will be involved in different aspects of this multidisciplinary research effort.

NC-CAV’s research outcomes will assist NCDOT and transportation policy/decision-makers to better understand and proactively plan for future developments and long-term trends in the deployment of CAVs for advanced transportation systems. The Center will leverage the ongoing CAV-related research at participating universities in concert with the center thrusts to competitively advance North Carolina’s transportation research on CAVs at the national level.

What makes this research grant particularly exciting are the municipal stakeholders with whom NC-CAV is partnered. The NCDOT is providing the $1 million in grant funding with Downtown Greensboro and the Greensboro Department of Transportation serving as the other public stakeholders of this project. Downtown Greensboro will provide equipment and needed logistics for a pilot program deployment of CAVs in its downtown district from the NCAT campus. A dedicated road will be built from the City to the N.C. A&T campus, in order to facilitate the traffic of autonomous vehicles.

In addition, national research partners such as the National Institute of Aerospace and the NASA Langley Research Center, and Wireless Research Center, as well as industrial collaborators such as General Motors and National Instruments will be partnering with NC-CAV to develop and deploy innovative autonomous vehicle applications to address the needs of North Carolina.

The new Center will be headquartered at N.C. A&T’s North Campus Gateway Research Park on the southeast side of Greensboro. The Center will have its own dedicated test-track for autonomous vehicles as well as support staff to accommodate the rigorous reporting and tracking required for a project of this scope.

Dr. Karimoddini is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. He is the director of the ACCESS Laboratory and deputy director of the TECHLAV Center of Excellence in Autonomy at N.C. A&T. He presently has several autonomy-related research initiatives underway, including civil infrastructure inspection, and the processing of remote sensing data for precision agriculture and environmental management. Karimoddini also serves as the lead faculty advisor of the Aggie Autonomous Auto (A3) team, an award-winning student-led team, aiming to develop level-4, full-scale autonomous cars.