N.C A&T Unveils Autonomous Shuttle Route to Downtown Greensboro

By Jordan Howse / 09/18/2023 Research and Economic Development, College of Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 18, 2023) ­- North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s exciting and innovative Aggie Auto self-driving shuttles are heading in a new direction: Downtown Greensboro.

N.C. A&T’s autonomous shuttles, unveiled last year with the university’s rural test track at Gateway North Campus, navigated a new track today: the real-world obstacles of the approximately one-mile ride from the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation Complex to the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum.

Local, state and federal leaders were among the first to experience the autonomous pilot program that will be open to the public on weekdays from Tuesday, Sept. 19, through Friday, Oct. 13, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Under the pilot program, students, faculty, staff and members of the community can take the shuttles from campus to the downtown area. This new research testbed of micro-transit vehicles will provide mobility services for connecting disconnected communities.

“The launch of this new autonomous shuttle between our campus and downtown Greensboro is the latest example of the exciting and innovative research of our faculty and students at North Carolina A&T,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “This research represents more tangible evidence of how the university realizes its mission of improving the human condition and facilitating economic growth in North Carolina and beyond. Developing groundbreaking, equitable and efficient transportation solutions enhances the quality of life for all in our communities, especially those in underserved areas.”

The fleet is comprised of three low-speed self-driving shuttles, a high-speed self-driving van and two regular autonomous sedans. The shuttles can perform all driving tasks under specific circumstances, and a human driver can override and take control of the car. Additionally, the cars are in compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

As a historically Black university, A&T has been a leader in preparing diverse populations to enter transportation-related professions. The university is the home to the first Summer Transportation Institute, now funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which has been running successfully for 30 years.

“The College of Engineering strives to create an environment for not only successful students but innovative researchers who will lead the future of our community and society,” said Stephanie Luster-Teasley, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Engineering. “This state-of-the-art fleet of autonomous vehicles can provide on-demand mobility services in a flexible way to reduce transportation time and cost for rural and underserved areas in A&T’s community.”

“The Federal Highway Administration is proud to support North Carolina A&T University’s efforts to develop and operationalize autonomous vehicles and lead the way in showing how Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are innovating the transportation sector,” said Keith Benjamin, FHWA associate administrator of highway policy and government affairs. “This project will help fill gaps in the current transportation network and demonstrate how technology can better connect underserved communities and people from all walks of life in Greensboro and the surrounding community.”

With a maximum speed of 25 mph, the shuttles were thoroughly tested to detect obstacles and share the road with passenger and commercial vehicles.

As part of the research, the Aggie Auto team developed an app that will show riders live tracking of the shuttles as well as the history of the program, university and city of Greensboro. Through this application, A&T researchers also collect feedback from riders who have used the shuttles to form comprehensive outcomes of the research program.

“It is exciting to live in an era where autonomy and artificial intelligence are changing our world,” said Ali Karimoddini, Ph.D., director of Center for Regional and Rural Connected Communities Regional UTC and NC-CAV Center of Excellence. “N.C. A&T researchers have a strong presence and contribution to this evolving world and push the boundaries of research.”

This innovative research is made possible through partnerships with North Carolina Department of Transportation, FHWA and U.D. Department of Transportation University Transportation Centers (UTC) program, as well as industry partners including Google, Verizon, Volvo, Intel and RTI.

“The future of transportation includes shared mobility options that are as convenient, reliable, affordable, clean and safe as driving and allow every person equal access to opportunities and services,” said N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Secretary Eric Boyette. “This project and partnerships like it demonstrate NCDOT’s commitment to this goal.”

For more information, view this Aggie Auto video at https://youtu.be/vPznZwcn1Us.


Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu

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