USDOT allocates $25 million for rural autonomous vehicle research programme

Posted: 18 December 2023 | | No comments yet

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s $25 million funding opportunity for its RAV research programmes focuses on the benefits of automated vehicles in rural and Tribal communities to address mobility disparities.


The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has announced that it has unveiled a $25 million funding opportunity for its Rural Autonomous Vehicle (RAV) research programme. Accredited universities across the nation are invited to vie for this competitive six-year co-operative agreement program.

The initiative, announced by Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and Chief Scientist, seeks to explore the benefits and responsible application of automated vehicles and associated mobility technologies in rural and Tribal communities. The funding will be divided into two substantial awards, with $15 million allocated for passenger transportation research and an additional $10 million dedicated to advancing the movement of freight in rural areas.

“Automated vehicles have the potential to enhance roadway safety and increase mobility options for all Americans, including older Americans, low-income households, people with disabilities and those who cannot or choose not to drive,” said Dr. Robert C. Hampshire. “Disparities in mobility and economic development opportunities in rural and Tribal communities leave many in those underserved communities unable to get to where they need to go to meet the needs of their daily life regularly, reliably and safely; or to get necessary goods delivered.”

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Statistics reveal that 19% of the U.S. population resides in rural areas, with nearly a quarter of Americans aged 65 and older living in these communities. However, rural roads account for 47% of all roadway fatalities and 34% of public highway-rail grade crossing fatalities. Emergency response times in rural areas are more than double those in urban areas.

The RAV programme aims to fund collaborative research and pilot deployment activities, envisioning a future rural transportation system that is safe, competitive, and creates well-paying jobs. 

The programme aligns with USDOT’s policy priorities outlined in its Innovation Principles. By concentrating on rural and Tribal applications of automated vehicle technologies, USDOT aims to propel mobility and safety solutions for the entire transportation sector. The RAV programme promises meaningful experimentation, collaboration opportunities and a focus on better outcomes to address the unique challenges faced by rural communities.