NCDOT Funds New Center of Excellence at N.C. A&T

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Dec. 17, 2019) – The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has chosen a research team at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to establish the NC Transportation Center of Excellence in Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Technology (NC-CAV), a project the agency is funding with a $1-million grant.

As part of the project, N.C. A&T will partner with the City of Greensboro to build a road between the university and downtown for autonomous vehicles only. That is in addition to a dedicated test track the new center will have at Gateway Research Park.

“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.”

NC-CAV’s research outcomes will assist NCDOT and transportation policy and decision-makers in better understanding and planning for future developments and long-term trends to advance North Carolina’s transportation research on CAVs at the national level.

The center, headquartered at the Gateway Research Park’s north campus in Greensboro, brings together a strong and diverse team of transportation-related expertise from N.C. A&T, 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,” said Ali Karimoddini, Ph.D., NC-CAV director and associate professor in the College of Engineering at A&T.

The research grant will support a three-year multidisciplinary effort directed by Karimoddini beginning Feb. 1, 2020 and will incorporate three interwoven research thrusts:

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

Other A&T researchers include John Kelly, Ph.D., in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Steven Jiang, Ph.D., in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; Leila Hashemi Beni, Ph.D. in the Department of Built Environment; and Abdullah Eroglu, Ph.D., in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The center will partner with Downtown Greensboro and the Greensboro Department of Public Transportation to create a pilot program deployment of CAVs in its downtown district from the A&T campus. A dedicated road will be built from the city to the campus, to facilitate the traffic of autonomous vehicles.

Additionally, 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 collaborate with NC-CAV to develop and deploy innovative autonomous vehicle applications to address the needs of North Carolina.

The center will have its own dedicated test-track for autonomous vehicles at Gateway Research Park as well as support staff to accommodate the rigorous reporting and tracking required for a project of this scope.

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.

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