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University of Michigan receives $3 million for autonomous vehicle research

Washington — A research center for self-driving vehicles at the University of Michigan received a $3 million grant Tuesday from the Department of Transportation.

The Center for Connected and Automated Transportation conducts research on autonomous vehicles and connected transportation, which helps vehicles navigate roadways without a human driver.

The group had previously received a $2.4 million grant from DOT. The new funding comes from the infrastructure law passed in 2021.

The center has been conducting research for six years and plans to continue for another five. The work has "had a profound impact" on U.S. transportation, said Transportation Research Institute Director James Sayer, including reducing traffic congestion and improving the safety of AVs.

Michigan Democrats praised the grant decision Tuesday. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, supported UM's grant application and said the funding will support the university's "groundbreaking research to advance safety and mobility and ensure that Michigan continues to lead the way in developing the vehicles of the future."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said the center does "critical research" that "keep(s) us at the forefront of autonomous vehicle breakthroughs" and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, said it will ensure UM "has the tools to address critical transportation challenges."

The center is led by UM but partners with Washtenaw Community College, Central State University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, the University of Akron, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.