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Posted on Tue, May 14, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

University of Michigan announces new transportation research center

By Ben Freed

The creation of a new University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center was announced Tuesday with the aim of changing the way we think about how people and products move from place to place.


Researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will make up a key component of the new Mobility Transformation Center.

Angela J. Cesere |

According to a press release from the university, a major focus of the new center will be a “model deployment” built in part on the connected vehicle study under way at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. By putting new technologies into existing vehicles, researchers can test new and emerging concepts both on and off the road.

The new center will focus on these emerging technologies as well as on the policy and economic issues that surround changing transportation infrastructure.

“Some of the biggest challenges we face are not technical,” Stephen Forrest , U-M's vice president for research, said in a statement.

"There are many social, political, regulatory and economic issues that must be addressed in order to realize the promise of technological advances. With our acknowledged strengths in these areas, and our culture of interdisciplinary cooperation, U-M is uniquely suited to address the full complexity of the challenges ahead."

University spokesperson David Lampe said in an interview that most of the new center’s participants already are working at the university’s various schools and colleges. The center will have some dedicated staff who will begin work in the North Campus Research Complex.

Seed funding for the new center primarily will be drawn from existing research funding from UMTRI, the office of the vice president for research, the College of Engineering and the U-M Energy Institute.

“We’re also in the process of approaching industry sources as well as state and federal government sources for funding, especially the U.S. Department of Transportation,” Lampe said.

UMTRI director Peter Sweatman will also direct the new center. He said in a statement that the technologies being tested at the center could both increase the safety of travel and bring economic benefits.

"Integrating the most promising approaches to mobility into a coordinated system could reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries as well as energy consumption and carbon emissions by as much as a factor of 10," he said.

"We also estimate that freight transportation costs could be cut by a factor of 3, and the need for parking could go down by a factor of five."

The university said in the release that the new center will collaborate with both the government and the transportation industry to make improvements to travel for both humans and cargo.

“U-M has a long history of automotive research and collaborations with industry,” U-M College of engineering dean David Munson said in a statement.

“The MTC will help us take our commitment to a new level and allow us to work together to pave the way for the future.”

The University of Michigan is in the midst of hosting the Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles and Infrastructure. The three-day event, attended by US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, features a range of speakers and panels dealing with issues related to V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) connection.

Symposium attendees also will have the opportunity to meet with UMTRI researchers and learn about the ongoing connected vehicles study that includes more than 3,000 cars, trucks and busses communicating with each other and the local infrastructure.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted Monday night to accept a portion of the $14.9 million grant from the Department of Transportation that helps pay for the project. The federal funds will help reimburse the city for costs incurred while installing the necessary fibers, sensors and electronic equipment.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Wed, May 15, 2013 : 1:33 a.m.

Ben Freed: UMTRI does not have a building at the North Campus Research Complex. Their address is: 2901 Baxter Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2150 USA


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

Mr. Freed - the UMTRI building has been around for a long time (since the 60s or 70s) as a University of Michigan building. The NCRC is comprised of the land and buildings formerly owned by Pfizer and bought by U-M. The UMTRI building, while adjacent to NCRC, is not part of NCRC.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

Type that address into Google maps. You might be surprised to find that the building you're referencing is right there at the North Campus Research Complex.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

I do like the idea, however have to question how they are doing this as they keep saying they are out of money (except for anything that sounds green or social engineering). Raising student fees every year to fund other things than teaching hardly seems fair to the students or their families.


Wed, May 15, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

This complaint by Greg like those from so many others indicates an unawareness of the complexity of UM's funds and budgets. Did you not read the various funding sources for just the seed money to start this project? These funds have nothing to do with student tuition and fees. And if the Center is to keep alive it will have to raise considerable more money from mostly private corporations and some from federal sources, I expect.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

University spokesperson David Lampe said in an interview that most of the new center's participants already are working at the university's various schools and colleges. The center will have some dedicated staff who will begin work in the North Campus Research Complex.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:52 p.m.

Please let me know when they figure out the non-technical questions around who is to blame and held accountable when an "automatic" vechile runs someone over, or malfunctions.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

That information just isn't knowable Nicholas. In the entire history of automation, tort and criminal law, mankind has never once been able to effectively determine and assign blame. It's like discovering a perpetual motion machine: It just isn't physically possible. I'm throwing my hands up in the air, just as you are, in exasperation just trying to figure out these unanswerable questions.

Ben Freed

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Nicholas, A number of researchers in the center will be focused on nontechnical questions. I'm sure that the question of liability is of major concern to car companies and the government alike and I would imagine that it will be one of the issues tackled by the new center.


Tue, May 14, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.



Tue, May 14, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

Is the Center going on existing U of M land?

Ben Freed

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Yes. Most of the researchers who participate in the center will be spread out across various departments in the university but the staff people will start out UMTRI's building in the NCRC.