New Autonomous Vehicle Grants Announced, Congress Contemplates Legislation

USDOT grants go out to leverage testing and data sharing

On September 18th, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced nearly $60 million in federal grants to eight projects in seven states to test the safe integration of automated driving systems (ADS) on American roads. This is the second round of grants but this iteration is newly focused on autonomous vehicles. Aimed to inform rulemaking and foster collaboration among state and local government and private partners, these grants showcase the interest to move forward with testing that has started with cities. While these could be used to provide significant safety data and use cases, the Secretary acknowledges that legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy still need to be addressed. The following applicants were selected to receive grants:

State Applicant Project Description Funding
TX Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) This project will develop and test ADS for rural roads without high-definition maps and with no or low-quality road signs or markings. $7,063,787
IA University of Iowa This project will connect rural, transportation-challenged populations using a mobility-friendly ADS built on a commercially available platform. $7,026,769
VA Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Transportation Institute This project will define, develop, and demonstrate key dynamic scenarios and their potential solutions for safe interaction of ADS-equipped vehicles in a Northern Virginia corridor optimized for vehicle automation. $7,500,000
VA Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Transportation Institute This project will 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. $7,500,000
OH Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT) (through DriveOhio) This project will 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. $7,500,000
PA Pennsylvania Department of Transportation This project will explore safe integration of ADS into work zones by examining connectivity, visibility, and high-definition mapping technologies. $8,409,444
MI City of Detroit, MI This project will implement the Cooperative Automation Research Mobility Applications (CARMA) Level 3 software platform for demonstration testing focused on mobility, safety, and endurance. $7,500,000
CA Contra Costa Transportation Authority, CA This project will demonstrate Level 3 and Level 4 vehicles using shared on-demand, wheelchair accessible ADS-equipped vehicles. $7,500,000

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Congress is taking a fresh look at autonomous vehicle legislation this fall

This August, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation asked key stakeholders like the National League of Cities to provide feedback through their bipartisan, bicameral process. After the previous bills were sidelined due to preemption and safety concerns last Congress, this effort is considered a “fresh start” to develop a self-driving car bill.

NLC responded with the feedback of several of our cities who are testing autonomous vehicles on their roads today in conjunction with our state and local partners and with our safety and integration partners. We continue to advocate on behalf of cities for federal legislation that creates a path to safe integration of AVs while maintaining the traditional role of local government in the safety of our roads by setting and enforcing local traffic laws. Read our state and local letter here and our joint letter to Congress here.

What is your city’s perspective on autonomous vehicles?

Many cities are testing, planning and considering how to utilize autonomous vehicles. Let us know what your city is planning! Email

brittney2_ready.jpgAbout the Author: Brittney Kohler is the program director for transportation and infrastructure at the National League of Cities.