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Mobility Research and Business Development

Making Mobility Smarter

The Ohio State University’s breadth, depth and world-class expertise are transforming transportation

Airplane, wireless, cloud, computer, car and drone icons overlay a photo of downtown Columbus.

Mobility drives the progress of civilization. But our transportation systems are stuck in the past. Paths for horse-drawn carts traced between commerce and population centers of the 1800s were paved a hundred years ago to become roads for motor vehicles. Aside from periodic replacement, today’s railroad tracks are largely unchanged from those first built two centuries ago. The world’s addiction to fossil fuels began in the mid-18th century with coal-fired steam engines.

Mobility must be reengineered to be smarter.

“Smart mobility” refers to the use of advanced communications and computing to integrate and control multiple modes of transportation. It’s about using technology and connected infrastructure for safer, cleaner, more efficient and more equitable travel. Ohio State is moving decisively in each of these areas.

Making Mobility Smarter

The College of Engineering’s breadth and depth equips it better than most institutions to approach the lofty goal of making mobility smarter. From highly efficient propulsion systems to new materials enveloping vehicle occupants, Ohio State experts accelerate innovation. From autonomous vehicle technologies to new planning methods for city infrastructure, Buckeye Engineers lead global discussions and advance national initiatives.

While propulsion, wheels and wings remain critical, emerging focus areas including data analytics, artificial intelligence, connectivity and cybersecurity will be no less important. Human factors and public policy must be woven into research from the beginning, rather than analyzed in the rearview mirror. The materials used in novel mobility solutions and new manufacturing methods will enable lighter, safer and more efficient vehicles.

Collaboration is critical to solve challenging issues like modernizing transportation and modifying human behavior. Accordingly, Ohio State engineers captain major projects for the Department of Transportation and the FAA, and sustain long-term research and workforce partnerships with transportation industry leaders. Federal agencies often call on experts at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), Center for Aviation Studies, Driving Simulation Laboratory, and City and Regional Planning in the Knowlton School. The College of Engineering also oversees operations of the largest independent vehicle testing and proving grounds in the U.S., the Transportation Research Center (TRC).

Smarter for Safety

There were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2019. Even with steady improvement in vehicle safety over the past five decades, most crashes remain preventable. Driver assistance technologies in today’s cars and trucks are already helping to save lives and prevent injuries.

  • A national consortium led by Ohio State is developing solutions to autonomous vehicle safety and security challenges. This Tier 1 University Transportation Center collaboration also includes University of California, Irvine, University of Cincinnati and University of Texas.
  • CAR researchers are addressing safety on multiple mobility fronts including cybersecurity, automotive functional safety, driver-in-the-loop vehicle simulation, and pedestrian and occupant safety.
  • SIMCenter helps automakers evaluate potentially dangerous test cases safely with a sophisticated system that simulates vehicle operation. They already work extensively with automated vehicles, which is critical given the enormous amount of testing necessary before an AV can be declared safe.
  • TRC is home to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Research and Test Center — the only federal vehicle research and test laboratory — and conducts advanced testing for a wide spectrum of industry customers.

Smarter for Sustainability

Vehicles, planes and other forms of transportation emit more greenhouse gases than any other sector of our economy. In terms of both energy usage and infrastructure, transportation presents significant opportunities to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

  • Ohio State engineers are developing new lightweight materials and electric battery systems for land and air vehicles. Dozens of studies and student capstone projects in these areas are sponsored by companies.
  • CAR’s Extreme Fast Charging research program is addressing key barriers in EV charging infrastructure, battery pack design and electrical and thermal battery management.
  • Research teams are leading or contributing to $12 million in federally-funded research focused on advancing vehicle sustainability.

Smarter for Social Equity

Access to transportation in the U.S. is not always equitable, leaving many communities, including those of color, struggling to obtain reliable and affordable transportation.

  • Ohio State was a key reason the City of Columbus won the Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge in 2016. As the Smart Columbus lead research partner, the university invested substantial funding and intellectual capital. Projects included research on autonomous vehicles, data privacy and prenatal trip assistance. Ohio State researchers helped develop an autonomous shuttle in the Linden area, partnering with COTA to help people with cognitive disabilities use a specialized transit navigation app. 

Smarter for Students

Two female students sit inside a vehicle simulator, while a male student standing outside points to the vehicles dash.
Students test their prototype at Ohio State's Driving Simulation Laboratory.

From flight education to city planning and so much in between, Ohio State students are immersed in smart mobility activities.

  • An Ohio State team has finished first in the national EcoCAR Mobility Challenge six years in a row. Currently, 12 university student teams are challenged to reengineer a 2019 Chevy Blazer utilizing electrification, advanced propulsion and level 2 automation to improve energy efficiency, safety and consumer appeal of their vehicle for the carsharing market.
  • The Ohio State University Airport now boasts unrivaled facilities and a student flight hub in the new Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Education Center.
  • An ardent supporter of Ohio State research and students, Honda regularly sponsors 20+ student capstone projects focused on real-world problems.

Ohio State Engineering students can impact the future of smart mobility while on campus and when they enter the workforce.

Mobility News

Symposium emphasizes collaboration in Ohio air mobility initiatives
Up to the challenge of improving intersection safety
Ohio State, Columbus State students team up in national EV battery engineering competition
NASA awards $80K to Buckeye engineers through University Research Challenge
Bringing new resilient infrastructure to all communities
Formula Buckeyes drive home a third-place finish