The Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers competition was run as a pilot solicitation within the ERC program. Planning grants are not required as part of the full ERC competition, but intended to build capacity among teams to plan for convergent, center-scale engineering research.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) inspire visions of new urban landscapes, broad changes in transportation patterns, and energy-efficiency. AVs are increasingly expected to be able to handle events and situations safely with little to no human assistance and intervention. As AVs become more commonplace, outside of the laboratory, AVs should conform to societal norms and improve daily life. This project enables the planning of a transdisciplinary research center to explore new concepts for a safe, autonomous, transportation engineering future.

This project develops a strategy for creating a transdisciplinary engineering, research and education center, and developing a detailed road map for safe future transportation system. The approach for the center encourages a broader perspective for examining the role AVs in society, for developing effective regulations, for urban transportation planning, and for pragmatic demonstrations of AV technology. The center integrates various perspectives, including ethics, law, communications, and the social sciences. It explores the convergence of technologies for safe behaviors in AVs using, e.g., machine intelligence, generally driven by computer science, with specific sensors, models and methods, and vehicle engineering that has focused on vehicle systems' dynamics and controls, generally driven by physical models. The center integrates test beds into center-scale experimental platforms to demonstrate autonomous ground vehicles, autonomous aerial vehicles, including multiple connected vehicles, and future concept prototypes.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
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Ralph Wachter
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Pennsylvania State University
University Park
United States
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