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From Dean Williams: Fueling the future of smart mobility

A year after beating out 70 cities for a multimillion-dollar prize, The Ohio State University and Columbus are leading the way to finding innovative solutions for mobility.

Winning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge in June 2016 was just the start. The win secured $40 million in federal government grants and another $10 million from venture capital firm Vulcan—funds that are fueling the development and testing of high-tech, environmentally friendly transportation solutions.

Smart Columbus is about much more than transportation. It positively impacts serious community issues like poverty, food deserts, infant mortality, access to affordable transportation, employment opportunities and internet connectivity.

As the lead researcher for the Smart Columbus project, the university is already testing autonomous cars, sensors that will make travel safer and tools to connect communities to more flexible transportation options. Much of that work is happening in our Center for Automotive Research and the college-affiliated Transportation Research Center (TRC). In January, Gov. John Kasich announced a $45 million commitment to expand TRC’s research and innovation in autonomous—or driverless—vehicles. Ohio State will contribute $25 million to TRC, with an additional $20 million coming from the state. On top of that, the College of Engineering is investing $24 million over five years to hire faculty and staff to support autonomous vehicle research.

Led by great minds like Carla Bailo, senior vice president for mobility research at the university and a former SVP of R&D for Nissan North America, Ohio State Engineering leadership is also speeding ahead in its larger commitment to solve mobility issues of the 21st century.

We’ve covered significant ground in the past year. We co-founded the Smart Belt Coalition, a multi-state effort to support research, testing, policy, funding pursuits and deployment, as well as share data and provide unique opportunities for private-sector testers. The U.S. Department of Transportation named Ohio State a Beyond Traffic Innovation Center, one of 18 across the country to lead research on transportation challenges. We’re working closely with the Ohio Department of Transportation and local government on the Smart Mobility Corridor, a 35‑mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 equipped with high-capacity fiber optic cable to instantaneously link researchers and traffic monitors with data from embedded and wireless sensors along the roadway.

Our progress isn’t just on the ground. Construction has begun on a modern flight education facility and terminal at The Ohio State University Airport, thanks to the Knowlton Foundation and steady usage by dozens of central Ohio companies. And just last month, a small team of faculty and students set a world speed record for an unmanned aerial vehicle to spearhead a competitive technology push for higher speed, longer range, and enhanced safety for drones.

The early signs of the Smart City of the future exist now. At Ohio State, we’re planning for the mobility revolution, which promises great challenges and—if we do it right—enormous benefits to all. Because, as Carla is fond of saying, smart mobility isn’t just about transportation. It’s about moving from one social level to the next and using technology to improve all of our lives.

David B. Williams
Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean's Chair
Dean of the College of Engineering
Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges

Tags: College