Driverless car demo to spotlight transportation conference in Buffalo
Event showcases leadership role that Buffalo and New York State are playing in next-generation traffic systems
Release Date: June 19, 2017
BUFFALO, N.Y. — More than 100 transportation leaders from across the United States are meeting in Buffalo this week to discuss everything from driverless cars to bike share programs and how big data can improve traffic-clogged roads.
The event, June 19-21, is the annual summer meeting of the Council of the University Transportation Centers, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents more than 90 universities and colleges nationwide, including the University at Buffalo.
In addition to academia, government and industry officials, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will participate in the conference, which is organized by UB’s Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics (ISTL), and the UB-headquartered Transportation Informatics Tier 1 University Transportation Center.
"This is an exciting moment for Western New York and the University at Buffalo, which will now become even more of a leader in the driverless technology revolution," said Hochul. “Investments in workforce training, advanced manufacturing, hi-tech industry clusters and our partnership with NYSERDA have positioned this region to become a major testing ground for the next generation of motor vehicles as we continue to transform the local economy to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.”
Highlights include demonstrations of the Motion Simulation Laboratory (driving simulator) at UB’s North Campus and road testing of an autonomous Cadillac SUV developed by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).
News media are invited to check out the road tests — led by UB researchers and collaborators from CMU, Southwest Research Institute and Cisco — at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Center for Tomorrow parking lot and along Service Center Road on UB’s North Campus.
The conference comes on the heels of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement last month that New York is opening its roads to autonomous vehicle testing. The move marks another step forward in advancing New York as a hub for innovation, as well as taking a careful yet balanced approach to allowing driverless cars on roads and improving safety, Cuomo said.
“We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in pushing these vital changes in New York State law that will allow the autonomous vehicle industry to grow in New York State. The University at Buffalo is positioned well to advance this new technology through working with private and public partners to develop both virtual and real-world testing platforms, which in turn will help make our university the leading autonomous vehicle testing center in the country,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.
“The University at Buffalo recently was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to create a research facility dedicated to driverless and connected vehicle research,” said Liesl Folks, dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “With Governor Cuomo’s support of these innovations, we will make traffic systems smarter, safer and more sustainable in New York State and beyond.”
The $1.2 million NSF grant, which UB received last December, will allow UB to build a unique testing platform that syncs the university’s driving, traffic and wireless networking simulators to connected and driverless cars, as well as sensors and other instruments to be installed on roads on UB’s North Campus.
“Traditionally, researchers have used low-fidelity, stand-alone computer simulators and road testing facilities with limited flexibility,” said Chunming Qiao, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and the principal investigator of the project, which includes CMU, Cisco Systems and Southwest Research Institute. “At UB, we are bridging that gap by creating an integrated, virtual-reality-based-platform that would benefit academia, information technology companies, automakers and other stakeholders.”
This is the latest action taken by UB to promote new transportation options. Earlier this year, the school received funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to purchase and test an Olli bus. Olli is a self-driving, electric vehicle that can accommodate up to 12 passengers and uses sensors, including radar and cameras, to monitor the driving environment. UB plans to test the bus later this year.
John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “The University at Buffalo is a leader in advancing innovative technologies. The Olli bus will help New York meet Governor Cuomo’s energy goals and is an example of how New York is leading the nation in advancing electric vehicles and reducing emissions in the transportation sector.”
These projects enhance UB’s facilities and expertise in transportation studies including ISTL, which is managed jointly by UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and its School of Management, and the Transportation Informatics Tier 1 University Transportation Center, which focus on using big data to improve transportation systems.
“UB’s research will help answer questions that relate to the safety, efficiency and sustainability of traffic systems where, increasingly, humans allow machines to do the work,” said UB professor Adel Sadek, who directs ISTL and the Transportation Informatics Tier 1 University Transportation Center.