A newly-created research center led by New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering will study transportation technology and policies with the help of $10 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $5 million in non-federal matching funds. The center brings together NYU and six other universities to research advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and connected and autonomous vehicles, the university said in a press release.
Along with NYU, Rutgers University, the University of Washington, the University of Texas - El Paso, City College of New York, Texas Southern University and North Carolina A&T State University are the members of the research consortium, called the Connected Communities for Smart Mobility Toward Accessible and Resilient Transportation for Equitably Reducing Congestion Center, or C2SMARTER. It’s the only Tier 1 university transportation center designated under the 2021 infrastructure law to address the U.S. DOT’s priority for reducing congestion, NYU said. The consortium members previously collaborated in C2SMART, a Tier 1 UTC established in 2016.
The consortium looks to develop a “national portfolio of community deployments” to help communities cope with the effects of climate change, pollution and congestion, particularly their impacts on underserved populations. “We encourage [the participants] to work with their own local department of transportation in their cities,” said C2SMARTER’s director, Kaan Ozbay, pointing out that a research project in one city can be adapted to another.
The grant is one of 34 awards for university transportation centers the US DOT announced in February, totaling $435 million. Among the other grants are $4 million a year each for five years to Clemson University; the University of California, Davis; Prairie View A&M University; the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release that “with this investment, we’ll be able to support a new generation of leaders as they continue to pursue research that will usher in safer, cleaner, and more accessible ways to get people where they need to go.”
Ozbay described the consortium’s cities as “living labs” where “we have at least some level of field testing and piloting.” He said that knowledge sharing is common among the consortium’s university members. For example, he noted that UTEP developed an app to better understand how older adults access transit, a version of which NYU researchers tested in New York.
C2SMART’s previous work involved creating a “multi-agent transportation simulation” in which every individual is simulated, mirroring age, race, ethnicity and other attributes of a city’s population. In New York, the simulation modeled travel behaviors and modes to examine bus network redesigns, congestion pricing and the impacts of different freight delivery scenarios, according to a video produced by the research center.
“We want to bring high-tech and research results to the real world as fast as possible,” Ozbay said. “And the only way to do that is you need to do limited pilots and deployments to show that they are feasible and they are useful.”
In Seattle, researchers are creating a simulation of the greater Seattle transportation network using data from the Washington, Seattle and Bellevue departments of transportation that will enable them to test vehicle and traffic control algorithms and develop traffic management strategies. In Texas, researchers built a digital twin of the UTEP campus to study the impact of construction projects on the surrounding transportation infrastructure.
Another project involved developing tools to forecast electric vehicle charging demand in cities in collaboration with Consolidated Edison, the New York-area utility, and ChargePoint, an EV charging network. The goal is to help guide the rollout of electric vehicle charging stations in New York City.
Kaan said C2SMARTER is also planning new university courses for those who want to enter the transportation field and to train those at transit agencies and private-sector companies on new technologies.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a press release that “These funds will be used by some of our brightest minds to research what are the most innovative and efficient ways to move goods and residents across town and reduce congestion.”