Congresswoman Summer Lee and the US Department of Transportation Announce $20 Million Five-Year Grant for Transportation Safety Research to Carnegie Mellon University and Nationwide Partners including Community College of Allegheny County

**For Immediate Release**

May 30, 2023 

Contact: Emilia.Rowland@mail.house.gov | 330.212.2065

Congresswoman Summer Lee and the US Department of Transportation Announce $20 Million Five-Year Grant for Transportation Safety Research to Carnegie Mellon University and Nationwide Partners including Community College of Allegheny County

PITTSBURGH—Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) today that Carnegie Mellon University will lead a national consortium that has been awarded $20 million over the next five years from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to establish a new University Transportation Center (UTC).  To be known as Safety21, the consortium includes a diverse array of partners across the US who will collaborate to ensure that future autonomous, networked, shared, and integrated transportation technologies and systems are developed and deployed with safety, equity and sustainability in mind; that the US can maintain its competitive edge in domestic production and global leadership of these technologies; and that workers will receive the training that will prepare them for these new technologies. Lee held a lab tour, research showcase and press conference this morning where she, representatives from DOT and CMU spoke about the impact of the $20 million grant Lee helped deliver through her work on the Science Space and Technology Committee.  

Click here or below to watch Congresswoman Lee’s full remarks.  Click hereto view more photos and video.

Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “As a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I am working tirelessly to deliver funding for Pittsburgh’s innovation, bring research dollars back home to Western PA’s institutions, and create new jobs at home that we make sure to keep here at home. I am also committed to breaking down barriers that hinder the representation of Black, brown, working-class, and marginalized folks in STEM fields. I’m proud to partner with CMU to announce this Safety21 grant that will position Western PA to lead the country in transportation innovation and make meaningful progress towards closing the representation gap and making quality STEM education, training, and jobs accessible for all.”

CMU’s research partners include Morgan State University, The Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  Additional partners, the Community College of Allegheny County and the Community College of Philadelphia, will receive support for innovative workforce programs tailored to both today’s and tomorrow’s transportation workforce.

The transportation sector of our economy is undergoing a revolution. In the past decade, advances in sensing technologies, computing power  and wireless communications coupled with AI and machine learning are directly addressing the quality and the quantity of the transport of people and goods.  Electric vehicles are poised to overtake gasoline-powered cars, with more driver-assist safety features than ever.  Yet, there are still well over 40,000 automotive fatalities per year in the United States, mostly due to human error.  Often, the detrimental impacts of transportation safety failures are disproportionately borne  by vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and people with assistive devices; by neglected communities with failing infrastructure; by workers who are exposed to greater and greater dangers in construction zones; and by those less likely to be able to afford technologies that can help to keep them safer as they commute to work or school.   We see these tragedies too often in the news, and they deeply impact the families, communities and employers involved.

The goal of researchers like Dr. Raj Rajkumar, his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and its partners who are developing these technologies is to reduce automotive fatalities to zero— but also to ensure that equity, inclusivity and sustainability are critical inputs to the methods in which these technologies are developed, deployed and distributed across communities; the way we prepare our workforce for new technologies, and the ways we consider who will use and benefit from them.  Here, significant challenges remain.  The state of the art in highly automated vehicles must be made robust,  mature and worthy of public trust for widespread deployment.  Connectivity to and from vehicles must prevent new threats to privacy and cybersecurity.  The costs of new technologies to the end consumers must be reduced.  To remain competitive, the US must generate not only innovative technologies, but also re-think policy frameworks while ensuring a well-trained, diverse workforce of the future.

To address these challenges, Safety21 will bring an intentional focus on ensuring inclusive input from stakeholders, including workers, communities, users, vehicle manufacturers and researchers as it takes a holistic, system-of-systems approach to advancing connected and automated vehicle technologies and intelligent infrastructure.  

Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “As a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I am working tirelessly to deliver funding for Pittsburgh’s innovation, bring research dollars back home to Western PA’s institutions, and create new jobs at home that we make sure to keep here at home. I am also committed to breaking down barriers that hinder the representation of Black, brown, working-class, and marginalized folks in STEM fields. I’m proud to partner with CMU to announce this Safety21 grant that will position Western PA to lead the country in transportation innovation and make meaningful progress towards closing the representation gap and making quality STEM education, training, and jobs accessible for all.”

“This award from the U.S. Department of Transportation affirms Carnegie Mellon’s long-established leadership in developing technology and informing policy to improve our nation’s transportation network. The impact of Safety21’s research will be expanded by the Center’s intentional focus on equal access to safe and sustainable transportation for all communities,” says Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon.

“Through Safety21, faculty and student researchers will focus on the opportunities and risks

that automated and connected vehicles present. The knowledge they create will be shared with transportation managers, companies, and community organizations, resulting in effective technology transfer and deployment,” says William H. Sanders, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering.

“Safety21 is yet another example of the important work we are doing at the critical nexus of technology and society,” said Ramayya Krishnan, dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. “As technological advancements in AI and electric vehicles continue to emerge, we must operate with a concentrated focus on the importance of safety, equity and the environment.”

Raj Rajkumar, the George Westinghouse Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at

Carnegie Mellon, will lead Safety21.  Rajkumar, who has earned global recognition for autonomous vehicle research, is also the director of Carnegie Mellon’s current national UTC, Mobility21. Safety21 will be the fourth university transportation center and the third national UTC Carnegie Mellon has been competitively awarded since 2012.

“Safety21’s project portfolio will enhance transportation safety through research, development and deployment of breakthrough technologies and policy innovations. Additionally, we seek to broaden our impact by ensuring communities have equal access to safety technologies; evaluating energy use and emissions; and supporting domestic commercialization, entrepreneurship, and public policy to rally economic strength and global competitiveness,” says Rajkumar.

Full remarks below:

Thank you for being here with us this morning. I am filled with immense pride and excitement to announce a groundbreaking initiative that will shape the future of transportation safety research not just here in Pittsburgh, but nationwide. The US Department of Transportation has awarded a remarkable $20 million, five-year grant to Carnegie Mellon University and its coast-to-coast partners. This grant, awarded through the USDOT University Transportation Centers Program, is a testament to the spirit of innovation and collaboration that drives our region and nation forward.

As a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I am fueled by a commitment to deliver funding for Pittsburgh’s innovation, bring research dollars back home to Western PA’s institutions, and create new jobs at home that we make sure to keep here at home. I am also committed to breaking down barriers that hinder the representation of Black, brown, working-class, and marginalized folks in STEM fields. 

This grant represents a significant step toward closing the representation gap and making quality STEM education and training accessible for all.

Some of ya’ll might not know it yet, but out of only 5 other regions in the nation, Pittsburgh was just designated as a workforce hub. Our future here, as not only a workforce hub, but also as an innovation hub depends on our ability to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities in STEM. We must recognize that innovation goes hand in hand with improving communities, and that is precisely what CMU’s Transportation Center has been doing.

By involving community collaborators as full partners rather than subjects of research, they are building a bigger science and innovation table that welcomes more participants, pulls out more chairs & gives everyone in the community a seat at the table.

We have all witnessed the detrimental impacts of transportation safety failures, on the news, on your way to work, or maybe you have even experienced it yourself.  Anyone driving a vehicle, a pedestrian, a cyclist, a construction worker on the side of the road, or a kid crossing the street, we are all at risk of these types of safety failures.

That is why the importance of transportation safety research cannot be overstated, especially in light of the challenges we face. Even during the pandemic, we witnessed a dramatic increase in roadway fatalities, with over 42,700 lives lost in 2022 alone. It is deeply concerning that minority populations bear a disproportionate burden, and vulnerable road users face increasing incidents. 

This is why Safety21’s project portfolio, supported by this grant, focuses on enhancing transportation safety through research, development, and deployment of breakthrough technologies and policy innovations while focusing on equity, sustainability, and safety. 

As we strive to maintain our competitive edge in domestic production of these technologies it is imperative to explore how to improve worker safety and enhance the work environment rather than replacing workers and we must ensure that the deployment of these technologies is equitably distributed across all neighborhoods, particularly with public infrastructure investment, which is exactly what this project will do.

So today, we celebrate not only the significant investment in transportation safety research, but also the transformative potential it holds for our economy, our workers and our communities. This grant represents a powerful opportunity for Pittsburgh to maintain its edge in the internationally competitive market while we continue to grow as an innovation & workforce hub. Thank you all for making this possible today & fighting for a better future. 

Next up, I’d like to introduce Dr. Robert Hampshire, who not only serves as the USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for research and technology, but was also a CMU alum.

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