Two cars drive along a road on a cloudy day

$15 million for connected and automated transportation, renewing U-M-led Midwest hub

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant supports nine colleges and universities, developing new technologies and training the workforce for the future of mobility.


The University of Michigan will continue to lead regional efforts aimed at transitioning the nation to connected and automated vehicles—bolstered by a new $15 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), announced today.

Ann Arbor streets at night
Traffic at the intersection of Main St. and William St. in Ann Arbor, MI on September 16, 2015. Photo: Marcin Szczepanski/Michigan Engineering

That grant renews and expands the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation (CCAT), based in Ann Arbor and led by U-M. The partnership now brings together nine colleges and universities to focus on significantly advancing the U.S. transportation system with emerging technologies that address safety and sustainability.

Announced in 2016 and funded with $15.76 million over its first six years, CCAT is one of 10 regional USDOT University Transportation Centers nationwide. Since that time, the center, which originally included six institutions, has produced a broad range of research that includes: 

CCAT partners also engaged with over 400 undergraduate and graduate students and oversaw the creation of several educational courses for kindergarten level through college. The courses reached students at Washtenaw Community College, Purdue University and U-M.

“Our University Transportation Center’s work has had a profound impact on the U.S. driving environment—from reduced traffic congestion to improvements in the safety testing of AVs,” said Henry Liu, director of both CCAT and Mcity, a U-M-led public-private mobility research partnership, and a U-M professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We’ve also made strides in preparing a workforce for the continued development and deployment of connected and automated transportation technologies.” 

Two researchers stand over monitors and discuss data
Henry Liu, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the director of the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation, shows off part of the Michigan Traffic Lab, where simulated connected vehicles can interact with real vehicles inside the adjacent Mcity Test Facility. Photo: Austin Thomason/Michigan Photography

Headquartered in Ann Arbor, the center sits near the heart of the U.S. auto industry and represents Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as Michigan. 

“CCAT has also collaborated heavily with industry to establish Southeast Michigan and the Midwest as the definitive regions for connected and automated transportation and mobility,” said Liu.

Original CCAT members include Purdue University, the University of Akron, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Washtenaw Community College and Central State University in Ohio. The new additions are Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The renewal of CCAT is critical to our mission to bring safe, equitable and efficient transportation solutions to individuals and communities around the world,” said Jim Sayer, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), where CCAT is housed. 

“Over the next five years, CCAT will continue this vital research with our new partners from Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as create more opportunities for underrepresented students through the creation of the Internship Student Program in Research Engineering,” Sayer added.

Two cars drive along a road on a cloudy day
A demonstration of University of Michigan autonomous vehicle research at the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, MI. Photo: Evan Dougherty/Michigan Engineering

CCAT is part of an expansive University of Michigan portfolio of research tied to the future of mobility. In September 2022, the National Science Foundation awarded $5.1 million to Mcity to enhance its test facility, which opened in 2015 as the world’s first purpose-built test environment for connected and autonomous vehicles. The augmented reality testing environment developed by CCAT is deployed there. Mcity is developing next-generation digital infrastructure for AV testing and training, adding new virtual reality software and using real-world datasets to create tailor-made simulation scenarios for AVs. The system will eventually be available for remote tests by researchers in the U.S.

In addition to Mcity and UMTRI, U-M is home to the Walter E. Lay Auto Lab and is a founding partner of the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti.