Rural Roads Get Autonomous Ride: $25M Boosts Research in Underserved Areas

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is paving the way for autonomous vehicles (AVs) in rural America with a $25 million research program. This first-of-its-kind initiative, the Rural Autonomous Vehicle (RAV) program, aims to bridge the transportation gap often faced by rural and Tribal communities.

Filling the Mobility Void:

Nineteen percent of Americans call rural areas home, yet they face significant transportation challenges. Rural roads account for 47% of all roadway fatalities and 34% of public highway-rail collisions. Additionally, emergency response times can be double those in urban areas. The RAV program seeks to address these disparities by exploring how AVs can:

  • Enhance safety: Autonomous technology could reduce accidents and improve overall road safety in rural areas.
  • Increase mobility options: For residents who lack access to reliable public transportation or cannot drive due to age, disability, or other factors, AVs could offer new avenues for getting around.
  • Boost economic development: Efficient freight movement supported by autonomous vehicles could stimulate rural economies.
Rural Roads Get Autonomous Ride: $25M Boosts Research in Underserved Areas

Two Tracks for Progress:

The RAV program offers two funding tracks:

  • Passenger Transportation: A $15 million award will support research on AVs for passenger travel in rural areas.
  • Freight Movement: A $10 million award will focus on developing and testing autonomous freight and delivery solutions for rural regions.

Empowering Communities, Shaping Innovation:

The DOT understands that AV implementation shouldn’t leave anyone behind. The program prioritizes:

  • Collaboration: Research will involve partnerships between universities, communities, and stakeholders.
  • Pilot deployments: Testing AVs in real-world rural settings will inform future development and deployment strategies.
  • Worker empowerment: The program will ensure workers have a say in shaping AV technology and benefit from the economic opportunities it creates.
  • Innovation through experimentation: The RAV program encourages bold ideas and creative solutions to address rural transportation challenges.

Taking the Next Step:

The U.S. DOT is hosting an informational webinar in January 2024 to provide more details on the RAV program and application process. Visit for more information.

With the RAV program, the U.S. DOT is taking a crucial step towards ensuring that everyone, regardless of location, can reap the benefits of a safer, more accessible, and more equitable transportation future.


Self Drive News
Self Drive News

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