The U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) is inviting accredited universities to apply for a $25 million funding opportunity for its Rural Autonomous Vehicle (RAV) research program.
Through the six-year cooperative agreement program, universities will conduct research on the benefits of automated vehicles and associated mobility technologies in rural and Tribal communities.
DoT said one $15 million award will focus on passenger transportation, while a separate $10 million award will focus on “movement of freight to support and enable automated freight and delivery vehicles serving rural areas.”
“Automated vehicles have the potential to enhance roadway safety and increase mobility options for all Americans, including older Americans, low-income households, people with disabilities, and those who cannot or choose not to drive,” Robert C. Hampshire, DoT’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and chief scientist, said in a Dec. 14 press release.
“Disparities in mobility and economic development opportunities in rural and Tribal communities leave many in those underserved communities unable to get to where they need to go to meet the needs of their daily life regularly, reliably, and safely; or to get necessary goods delivered. This research will move the needle forward,” Hampshire added.
Notably, DoT said that 19 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, yet 47 percent of all roadway fatalities and 34 percent of all public highway-rail grade crossing fatalities occur on rural roads.
The RAV program will fund collaborative research to ensure the U.S. rural transportation system is safe, and also to pilot deployment activities. Additionally, DoT said it will help to support good-paying jobs and advance American tech competitiveness.
“This funding opportunity devoted to rural and Tribal applications of automated vehicle technologies will help the department advance mobility and safety solutions for the entire transportation sector, in a manner that serves U.S. DoT’s policy priorities as outlined in the Department’s Innovation Principles,” the department said. “In particular, the RAV program will allow for meaningful experimentation, and provide opportunities for collaboration, while encouraging better outcomes.”
DoT plans to hold a webinar on the funding opportunity in January 2024. The closing date for applications is March 13, 2024.