$9.8M to boost connected vehicle research at U-M, expand Ann Arbor deployment

A new $9.8 million federal grant will assist efforts at the University of Michigan to deploy cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology, allowing a new generation of cars to exchange safety-enhancing data with the world around them.

The U.S. Department of Transportation funding is part of its Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation Program (ATTAIN) created to promote new technologies that improve safety and reduce travel times for drivers and transit riders. This ATTAIN grant will update one of the largest connected vehicle pilots in the world, formerly known as the Safety Pilot Model Deployment program, with the latest connected vehicle and infrastructure technologies.

U-M-s Transportation Research Institute is conducting the work-research that syncs with its goals of using technology to boost passenger, pedestrian and resident safety. Connecting vehicles to other vehicles, as well as nearby infrastructure, is key to making that reality.

"This project will enable us to move quickly toward a connected vehicle and infrastructure deployment in the U.S., and we are grateful to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters for his leadership on this issue,” said Jim Sayer, UMTRI director and principal investigator. "The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has determined that vehicle-to-everything will eliminate or mitigate the severity of up to 80% of non-impaired crashes, and reduce carbon emissions.

"We believe the widespread deployment of cellular vehicle-to-everything will create more than 120,000 jobs developing new products, applications, services and smart infrastructure. The impact will be felt broadly and across economic sectors, including infrastructure owner-operators, vehicle manufacturers, technology providers, and chipset designers to name a few.”

The connected environment that researchers are pursuing allows vehicles to communicate with each other, infrastructure, the cloud and cellular networks, as well as pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. Where the Safety Pilot Model Deployment program previously utilized short range communications, C-V2X utilizes cellular communications. That will give the new iteration key technological advantages in terms of range, reliability, and faster transmission of critical safety messages. The technology has been extensively tested and successfully trialed in many regions of the world.

In addition to the 21 Ann Arbor intersections already retrofitted with roadside units for data sharing, the new deployment will update 51 more sites in the area with C-V2X.

Those units include:

  • 2 curve speed warnings
  • 4 pedestrian mid-block crosswalks
  • 39 intersections
  • 1 roundabout
  • 6 staging/test sites

UMTRI technicians will retrofit 100 vehicles with a low-cost aftermarket on-board unit. These vehicles will be used for coordinated testing with Michigan-based automobile manufacturers to accelerate vehicle deployment.

The new grant also will develop and implement an outreach, education and workforce development plan. It will leverage the Internship Student Program in Research Engineering which provides high-caliber, meaningful, hands-on engineering experience to students attending historically Black colleges and universities. Seminars, webinars, workshops and conferences are also part of the program’s commitment to outreach, education and workforce development.

Additional partners include Mcity, city of Ann Arbor, Ford Motor Co., WSP, Qualcomm, Integral Blue, and the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The project is scheduled to kick off this summer and run through 2026.