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.
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 https://www.transportation.gov/policy/ost-r/rdtrav 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.