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U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg visited Carnegie Mellon University facilities at Mill 19 on August 21 to meet with transportation researchers and officials to discuss how their research, development, and deployment (RD&D) initiatives will impact mobility.

Carnegie Mellon is working closely with the USDOT to transform the U.S. transportation system through research that focuses on safety, economic growth, climate and sustainability, and equity.

This spring, Carnegie Mellon was awarded $20 million over the next five years from the USDOT to lead Safety21, a University Transportation Center (UTC). This center focuses on the USDOT’s chief concern—safety. Safety21, which includes partners from across the country, aims to develop and deploy autonomous, networked, and integrated transportation technologies and systems with safety and equity in mind.

Carnegie Mellon has a long history of innovation in transportation, and Safety21 is CMU’s fourth University Transportation Center since 2012. CMU will complete its third UTC focused on mobility, Mobility21 this fall. The university serves to bring together the federal, private, and nonprofit sectors to provide research and other input to help the USDOT achieve its strategic goals.

Deputy Trottenberg, accompanied by Ben Levine, senior advisor for the USDOT Office of Research and Technology, and Bryson Hughes, deputy director of USDOT Operations and advisor to the deputy secretary, met with CMU’s Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of Mobility21 and Safety21, and university leaders. Discussion centered on goals for Safety21 and its strategic alignment with the new $22 million state-funded Pennsylvania Safety Training and Research (PennSTART) facility in Westmoreland County. Officials from the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) were also in attendance, including Don Smith, president, and Tim White, senior vice president, business development and strategy.

“Meetings like this underscore the importance of universities, partners, and the USDOT working together to provide safe and sustainable transportation while ensuring America’s continued competitiveness in transportation technology and enabling all communities to have equal access and benefit from them,” says Rajkumar. For example, in addition to addressing safety and environmental issues, Safety21 will bolster the nation’s competitive edge in domestic technology production and provide training for the transportation workforce.

The meeting’s agenda included a tour during which the deputy met with faculty and students from CMU and the Community College of Allegheny County and viewed research demonstrations and posters. The visit concluded with Trottenberg and Levine taking a test ride in the university Level-4 self-driving car.