The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Monday that it will provide $160 million in grants available annually over the next five years for technology that will improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure and make communities safer. This includes funding for vehicle technology, such as automation and connectivity, the department said.
“As we undertake the most ambitious infrastructure investment in generations, thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, we can and must plan for future transportation needs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “From connected vehicles that make driving safer, to smart traffic lights that reduce congestion, to sensors to detect pavement quality to help prioritize repair, our SMART grants will fund technology that makes people’s lives better in communities across America.”
Grants of up to $100 million will be awarded annually over the next five years through the new SMART Grant Program, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act signed by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021. The program will fund projects that Data and technology are used to solve real-world challenges facing societies.
The Department of Transportation said the SMART program “will fund purpose-driven innovation focused on building capacity and expertise in data and technology.” The program will seek proposals from public sector entities focusing on vehicle technology; systems innovation, such as traffic lights, smart grid and data integration; and new ways to monitor and manage infrastructure, such as sensors and drones.
“Achieving our transportation priorities for safety, economic strength, equity and climate requires a bold investment in new technologies and methods,” Robert C. Hampshire, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and chief of science at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in a statement. . “SMART supports a wide range of projects across the country that will serve as beacons as we move toward a data-driven, values-driven, and technology-enabled transportation system.”
The second program, the $60 million Federal Highway Administration’s Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) program, is designed to promote advanced technologies to improve safety and reduce travel times for drivers and transit riders, and could serve as national examples.
Also funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, ATTAIN-eligible projects will be evaluated on how to consider the impacts of climate change and environmental justice — including how to reduce transport-related air pollution and address disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities. Projects will also be evaluated based on their impact on the economy and potential for job creation.
“As we reward opportunities and improve the travel experience for everyone, we need to promote the use of the latest technology, and the ATTAIN program is doing just that,” said Stephanie Pollack, Acting Federal Highway Administrator, Stephanie Pollack. “The Biden-Harris administration took a program with a proven track record of delivering innovation through the use of advanced technologies and really made it look forward by refocusing its goals to include promoting equality and tackling climate change, as well as creating jobs and delivering a positive economic impact.”
Ford is researching smartphone-based technologies to protect pedestrians
In an unrelated development, Ford announced Monday that it is researching a new smartphone-based technology that could help warn drivers of the presence of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Ford said the concept uses a pedestrian’s smartphone app that can communicate its location to a connected Ford vehicle through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) messages. If the vehicle calculates a potential collision risk, Ford’s SYNC can use visual or audio alerts to warn the driver.
The OEM said it will join Commsignia, PSS, Ohio State University, T-Mobile and Tome Software to showcase the technology at the Intelligent Transportation Association of America’s global conference in Los Angeles this week.
“Newer Ford vehicles already equipped with Ford Co-Pilot360 technology can detect and assist pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders and more — and even apply the brakes if drivers do not respond in time,” Jim Bokowski, executive director of advanced research and engineering, said in a statement. “We are now exploring ways to extend the vehicle’s sensing capability, in areas that drivers cannot see, to help people drive more confidently on increasingly shared roads using two feet or two wheels.”
According to estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), road traffic deaths increased 13% between 2020 and 2021, to 7,342, while traffic fatalities rose 5% to 1,000, during the same period.
Unlike cameras or radar, the BLE-powered solution does not rely on line-of-sight detection, which means pedestrians and others can be detected while hiding behind obstacles such as buildings or parked cars. “This is especially important for the stresses of driving in big cities on shared roads,” Ford said.
BLE communication technology creates wireless personal area networks by using radio waves in the 2.4 GHz band to communicate with other similarly equipped devices. It’s already widely available in smartphones, Ford said, and is compatible with SYNC Connected Vehicle technology without any hardware changes in the vehicle.
Boczkowski said other uses of the technology are being considered, including revealing road construction areas and construction workers. “Ford innovates for the masses, so it’s very promising to start with Bluetooth Low Energy that is already a part of our daily lives because it’s so affordable and efficient,” he said.
Ford noted that BLE is widely used in personal electronics devices, such as smartphones, fitness monitors, location-based services and entertainment. While consumer applications often involve pairing two devices, the Ford concept uses the BLE as a beacon capable of sensing many other similarly equipped devices in range without pairing.
The system can differentiate between pedestrians and cyclists based on their speed, and calculate collision risks by monitoring their direction.
SMART Financing Notice It is now open and can be found at www.grants.gov. Applications must be submitted by 5:00 PM EST on Friday, November 18, 2022. Eligible entities are governments, state, local and tribal agencies. For more information visit https://www.transportation.gov/grants/SMART.
ATTAIN FUNDING NOTICE It can also be found in www.grants.gov. State departments of transportation, local governments, transit agencies, urban planning organizations and other eligible entities are invited to apply. Applications must be submitted by Friday, November 18, 2022. For more information, visit the FHWA website at https://highways.dot.gov/.
Drone view of city intersection at rush hour. (AerialPerspective/iStock Works)