Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Gov. Cooper Tout A&T Transportation Innovation

By Michiko Horie and Jordan M. Howse / 07/03/2024 Research and Economic Development, College of Business and Economics, College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 3, 2024) — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg joined Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday to visit the transportation research facility at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Gateway Research Park North Campus. Gateway North houses a diverse fleet of connected autonomous vehicles and one of the nation’s first rural test tracks for testing and developing autonomous vehicles. 

Buttigieg, Cooper and North Carolina Board of Transportation Chair Michael Fox rode autonomous shuttles on the test track and witnessed the vertical takeoff and landing of prototype “air taxis” being developed for package delivery and urban air mobility. Students also demonstrated A&T capabilities in using autonomous aerial vehicles to inspect bridges and other infrastructure.

“The work that is being done here at North Carolina A&T is going to help make it possible for America to advance in transportation technology, like autonomous driving and flight,” said Buttigieg. “It is being done with a great deal of attention on safety and data on the equity implications like how we serve rural areas, improve access to healthcare and education and how we can support the disability community.”

Buttigieg is the latest federal Cabinet member to travel to A&T for review of significant research activity and federally sponsored projects. Others include EPA Administrator Michael Regan ’98, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

How does A&T transportation research fit into U.S. DOT’s innovation strategy?

Buttigieg, Cooper and Fox got a briefing Tuesday from an array of A&T faculty researchers focusing on high-profile current studies and other prominent research that has seen the university emerge as a national leader transportation research and autonomy in recent years. Those researchers included:

  • Maranda McBride, Ph.D., management professor and director of the Center for Advanced Transportation Mobility and co-director of Center for Regional and Rural Connected Communities
  • Rachel Liu, Ph.D., UPS Endowed Professor of Supply Chain Management and director of the Transportation Institute. McBride and Liu are Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics faculty.
  • Ali Karimoddini, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering professor and director of CR2C2, the Region 4 University Transportation Center, which also includes Clemson, Florida Atlantic, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia as research partners. A&T is the first HBCU to serve as a regional lead in the UTC program’s history.
  • Abdollah Homaifar, Ph.D., Duke Energy Eminent Professor and director of the Autonomous Control and Information Technology Institute on air and ground transportation)
  • Venktesh Pandey, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering and co-lead of CR2C2 on equity and accessibility of transportation systems.

Sarah Searcy, senior advisor for Innovation, Integrated Mobility Division, North Carolina Department of Transportation, concluded the session by detailing her agency’s support for transportation research at A&T.

The demonstration portion of the tour featured rides in Aggie Autonomous shuttles on the rural test track, a 2-mile-long route simulating rural driving conditions. This track allows researchers to test A&T-developed technology that enables vehicle autonomy in real-world conditions.

Guests then witnessed demonstration of the prototype aircraft being developed with support from NASA. These air taxis ultimately promise to relieve congestion on urban roadways and increase connectivity to rural communities by flying goods and passengers from location to location.

Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu

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