USDOT Announces Recipients of $60M in ADS Grants
On Wednesday, September 18, USDOT announced the recipients of $60 million in Automated Driving Systems (ADS) grants. The funds were distributed nearly equally among eight projects (out of 73 applications) in seven states for development and demonstrations of ADS technologies. All of the selected projects include multiple partners, such as municipal agencies, state DOTs, universities, and manufacturers. However, the roles of partners vary greatly between projects. Virginia Tech’s ADS-equipped truck demonstration will cross from San Francisco to New York, with 17 partners listed including six State DOTs identified that will be implicated but will likely play a minor role.
|Recipient||State||Federal Award Amount Requested||Federal Award Amount Received||Non-Federal Cost Share Amount Proposed||Description|
|Contra Costa Transportation Authority||CA||Not specified||$7,500,000||$88,000,000||Demonstrate Level 3 and 4 vehicles using shared on-demand, wheelchair accessible ADS-equipped vehicles.|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Transportation Institute (VTTI)||VA||$9,999,192||$7,500,000||$3,697,299||Define, develop, and demonstrate key dynamic scenarios and potential solutions for safe interaction of ADS-equipped vehicles in a Northern Virginia corridor optimized for vehicle automation.|
|Ohio Department of Transportation (Through DriveOhio)||OH||$9,999,967||$7,500,000||$7,791,095||Conduct a multi-pronged demonstration approach focusing on rural environments, cooperative automation, and robust data collection to enable development of effective and informed ADS policies.|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Transportation Institute (VTTI)||VA||$9,999,999||$7,500,000||$3,455,913||Develop and demonstrate a Fleet Concept of Operations to provide the trucking industry with clear guidelines on how to safely implement, and benefit from, ADS-equipped trucks.|
|University of Iowa||IA||$7,026,769||$7,026,769||$822,744||Connect rural, transportation-challenged populations using a mobility-friendly ADS built on a commercially available platform.|
|City of Detroit||MI||$9,926,154||$7,500,000||$7,727,284||Implement the Cooperative Automation Research Mobility Applications (CARMA) Level 3 software platform for demonstration testing focused on mobility, safety, and endurance.|
|Pennsylvania DOT||PA||$9,559,817||$8,409,444||$2,841,575||Explore safe integration of ADS into work zones by examining connectivity, visibility, and high-definition mapping technologies.|
|Texas A&M||TX||$7,063,787||$7,063,787||$0||Develop and test ADS for rural roads without high-definition maps and with no or low-quality road signs or markings.|
The proposed scope of the majority of the projects hit up against the ceiling of $10 million per project. With slightly lower federal awards, partners will have to up their contributions or adjust the projects. The proposed match dollars, however, may be adjustable in many cases as proposals included in-kind contributions that are difficult to predict and measure and, in some cases, additional funding that had not yet been secured. Ohio DOT had identified around $7.8 million in matching funds at the time of proposal submission, but counted $10.3 million in contributions from industry, local, and research partners by the time they announced the award. Project partners are also contributing by utilizing existing infrastructure, with many of the grants awarded to utilize existing test beds, such as at VTTI, Texas A&M, and Willow Run near Detroit.
Some of the projects on the list are attempting to address some of the identified gaps in AV research. It has become clear that there is a need for performance-based Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that apply to vehicles with ADS, and VTTI’s Northern Virginia demonstration as well as Texas A&M’s rural testing projects will directly address this need through data collection aimed at standard development. Three of the projects (TX, IA, OH) focus explicitly on rural environments where infrastructure can be in poor condition and mobility options are limited. The project at Texas A&M aims to address the limitations to vehicle technologies’ dependence on well-maintained infrastructure by developing ADS for extended operational design domains. Only one project (CCTA) focuses on transit elements, and specifically tests wheelchair accessible vehicles, which will be one of the deciding factors in the potential for ADS technologies to improve mobility for people with disabilities.
Two projects (CA and MI) specifically mention that the technologies under development are SAE Level 3, which can involve a system-prompted handoff between automated system and a human driver behind the wheel. Level 3 systems could be problematic in terms of human-machine interface, with a research gap in the method and timing for handoffs. However, given the lack of deployment-ready existing Level 4 equipped vehicles, identifying the need for research and demonstration with Level 3 vehicles with the goal of developing Level 4 capabilities is responsible identification of the actual current capabilities of the technologies.
This process distributed the $60 million that was previously slated for ten designated AV proving grounds that were announced on President Obama’s last full day in office, with overlap in Texas, Detroit, and Contra Costa.