NCDOT Launches Automated Transportation Initiative

The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently launched a new initiative, Advance Mobility NC, that seeks to combine work done within aviation, integrated mobility and rail divisions to create a shared, autonomous, and connected multimodal transportation system for improved access and mobility for both people and freight.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

The agency said this new endeavor will invest in new technologies to improve mobility, including autonomous transit vehicles, advanced air mobility, on-demand transportation services, mobility hubs, connected streets, and freight transfer hubs as part of the three-year strategic plan that it expects to formally adopt in 2024.

“We are thinking ahead and always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other thought leaders, government entities and businesses to enhance our services and help us bring our vision for safer and more convenient transportation to fruition,” said Julie White, NCDOT’s multimodal transportation secretary, in a statement. “Advance Mobility NC is our strategic, shared vision for what mobility will be.”

Some examples of how NCDOT plans to turn this vision into a reality include:​

  • The creation of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program, the first demonstration flight of an unmanned electric vertical take-off and landing or eVTOL aircraft in the U.S. in 2020.  
  • The deployment of autonomous transit shuttles with the launch of its Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation program in 2020. NCDOT also partnered with the National Park Service in 2021 to deploy the first autonomous shuttle service in the country at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
  • NCDOT and the City of Wilson deployed one of the first rural on-demand microtransit services in the country in 2020 and recently won a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to deploy on-demand microtransit in 11 rural North Carolina communities.

Other state departments of transportation are engaged in similar autonomous transportation efforts across various modes.

For example, in May 2021, five state and local government entities – including three state DOTs – signed agreements with NASA to study how cargo-carrying drones and passenger-carrying air taxis can best be included in local and regional civic transportation plans.

Additionally, in August 2022, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) of Oklahoma and former Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) of Arkansas held a joint press event to highlight their efforts to make the Oklahoma-Arkansas region a national hub for advanced mobility technology development.

Their collaborative effort seeks to boost support for the growth of the advanced mobility industry, which includes drones, electric and autonomous vehicles, battery manufacturing, along with various transportation and logistics solutions.

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