2015 Overview

DOT Assistant Secretary Greg Winfree Keynotes UTC Safety Summit To Address Real-World Transportation Problems

Driverless cars, vehicle sensors and actuators, real-time navigation assistance integrated into social networking…these are all technologies being developed to make transportation safer and more efficient. And while the process of creating these technologies is important, innovations like these can only come about when researchers talk to government and industry to know the real-world transportation problems and issues that are being faced.

As one of five national university transportation centers funded by the United States Department of Transportation, Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation Center, the National University Transportation Center for Safety—a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania—is creating opportunities for these innovators, regulators and users to collaborate. On March 19 and 20, 2015, T-SET UTC hosted a summit of 14 university transportation centers for safety that represented over 50 universities across the country. US Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology provided the keynote address and highlighted importance of this event in bringing UTCs together with government and industry leaders to address the DOT’s top priority of safety.

“T-SET UTC focuses on real-world problems. And the only way to do this is to partner with the real world,” explained Carnegie Mellon’s T-SET UTC Director Raj Rajkumar. “The summit gave researchers, government, and industry representatives this opportunity to have conversations in order to create new collaborate efforts to further transportation technology.”

The two-day event hosted in Pittsburgh, PA, began with a welcome and introductions offered by James Garrett, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering; Rajkumar; and Dan Lee, the University of Pennsylvania’s T-SET UTC director.

Panel sessions gave representatives from government, industry associations and the community a chance to voice their priorities regarding transportation safety. Speaking about these issues from a government perspective, along with Assistant Secretary Winfree, were representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“The Safety Summit was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the activities and expertise at the safety related University Transportation Centers and how they potentially fit with government, industry and community safety priorities,” described Monique Evans, the director of safety research and development with the Federal Highway Administration.

Speaking on transportation safety priorities from the industry and community perspective were panel participants from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Trucking Association, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Transportation Research Board. University faculty then presented on their related research.

The second half of the summit was an “unconference.” Participants had the opportunity to respond to the presentations and post about issues or topics that they wanted to discuss. These issues and topics were grouped into themes for breakout sessions: 1) Human Factors and Behavior, 2) Safety Policy, 3) Intelligent Transportation Systems, 4) Innovation, Deployment and Workforce, and 5) Data.

“During the breakout discussions, several areas were identified where partnerships could potentially be formed to leverage resources, minimize duplication, and enhance development of innovations,” Evans said.

This was the first time the UTC’s nationally came together in this manner with government industry to focus primarily on how their education and research initiatives can address the real-world transportation safety needs In closing, Al Biehler, executive director of T-SET, said “Having all the safety-related UTC’s in the same room sharing their work was eye opening and a great first step. Everyone supported having the safety summit become an annual event to perpetuate research collaboration plus demonstrate the value of our collective work in solving real-world challenges.”