FTA awards $11.6 million to six transit bus automation research projects

June 9, 2023
The projects will improve safety, efficiency and accessibility of vehicles.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded grants to six transit bus automation research projects through its Fiscal Year 2022 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) for Transit Buses Demonstration and Automated Transit Bus Maintenance and Yard Operations Demonstration Program.

The two programs opened for funding in the fall of 2022 and shared a theme of safety. The $11.6 million in grants will support projects that aim to improve safety, efficiency and accessibility on the road and in bus maintenance yards.

"Advancements in technology can go a long way toward creating a safer and more efficient transit system," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "The innovative research projects we are funding represent an important step toward integrating state-of-the-art automation technology into real-world settings, helping transit agencies protect their operators and riders, as well as vulnerable road users."

Examples of projects include strategies for avoiding collisions with pedestrians, improved emergency braking and precision movement for bus fueling, charging and maintenance. Among the selected automation projects:

  • CapMetro in Austin, Texas, will receive nearly $950,000 to integrate vehicle automation in an advanced yard management system and run heavy-duty vehicle demonstrations at its operations facility. The project includes a bus automation workforce analysis to address how bus yard automation may impact existing roles and create demand for new positions.
  • Connecticut Department of Transportation will receive $2 million to expand an FTA-sponsored transit automation program along the CTfastrak bus rapid transit corridor. The project will incorporate collision avoidance, precision docking assist and more to enhance safety and accessibility throughout the CTfastrak local bus network.
  • University of Alabama will receive $2 million to test automation technologies for large transit buses using a lab simulation environment and real-world tests to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and equity impacts of the technology.
  • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will receive nearly $893,000 to test retrofitting a bus to operate autonomously. This will allow for routing bus yard tasks to be done more efficiently, such as automated parking and recall.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will receive more than $4.5 million to publicly demonstrate and collect data on a forward automatic breaking, pedestrian collision avoidance and more to enhance safety for buses.
  • Colorado Department of Transportation will receive more than $1.2 million to demonstrate ADAS technology in three retrofitted buses that serve critical rural transit routes.

As part of the programs, recipients will demonstrate technologies that reduce bus collisions, improve facility operations and improve the accessibility and efficiency of service. Many of the projects include workforce analysis and training activities to address how automation may impact existing jobs and help operators and maintenance workers develop new skills.

The projects also support FTA’s Strategic Transit Automation Research (STAR) Plan, which lays out FTA’s path toward exploring the use of automation technologies in bus systems to improve safety, increase efficiency and enhance the customer experience.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.