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Federal grants help cities improve EV, connected vehicle infrastructure

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Announcements | Technology
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The federal government has awarded nearly $95 million in grants for projects nationwide that will make transportation systems safer and “more equitable.”

Several of the initial 59 projects selected through the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program are to prepare for a future with more electric and connected vehicles.

“Every major advancement in the history of U.S. transportation has involved technological progress,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “The investments we are making today are about fostering innovations that improve people’s day-to-day lives, making transportation safer, more reliable, more efficient, and more sustainable.”

A handful of examples of projects supported through $94.78 million in funding are listed below. Some of the money will go toward:

    • Creating “smart intersections by leveraging existing traffic camera network to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) software solutions which can predict and prevent traffic accidents” in Detroit, Michigan.
    • Creating “a digital inventory of physical curb lane assets to improve management of the curb lane in Downtown Los Angeles.”
    • “Connected vehicle projects in states including Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and Utah will deploy connectivity demonstrations that focus on topics like transit prioritization and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. “
    • Smart grid communities in Maine, Colorado, and Massachusetts that will “prepare their communities for more widespread adoption of electric vehicles including cars, buses, and aircraft and ground vehicles at airports.”
    • Lidar and camera technologies at key intersections in Nashville, Tennessee “to understand near misses.”

Funding was capped at $2 million for each project. Many of the other selected initiatives are geared toward improving public transit infrastructure and safety.

The government rolled out inaugural funding for the program as EV popularity, interest in connected vehicle infrastructure, and vehicle autonomy grows. Many of the selected projects are meant to ensure modern technologies are rolled out without putting pedestrians at risk.

This includes investments in passive detection technology and smart traffic signals that detect and respond to pedestrians, bikes, and cyclists. Meanwhile, the Road Commission for Oakland County in Michigan was granted $2 million to “create a framework for deploying C-V2X [cellular vehicle-to-everything] in a sustainable manner.”

V2X technology allows automobiles to communicate with each other, pedestrians, and nearby infrastructure. Some senators are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve limited access to this “game changing safety technology” they say could prevent crashes and save lives.

Although Buttigieg supports technical advancements in the transportation sector, the lawmaker has previously expressed concerns about autonomous vehicles.

“There is enormous safety potential in the future of some of these automated driving technologies,” Buttigieg said during a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Live. “But any technology that’s on the market today is something that is designed to supplement — not replace — your attention as a safe driver. And I am very concerned about any scenario where any driver thinks otherwise.

“We are a long way off from automated vehicles, where you can sit back, take a nap, or read the paper while it takes you from point A to point B.”

He more recently told The Verge that he believes there is value in incorporating technologies into cities as a means to make them safer and more efficient.

“The idea is to make sure that technology unfolds in ways that make us all better off,” Buttigieg said. “It’s about technology, but it’s not about technology for its own sake.”

Funding for the SMART grants program was established through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It provides state, local, and tribal governments $500 million throughout the next five years to use leveraging technology to create “safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems.”


Featured image credit: Alessio Lin/Unsplash

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