State of Illinois Vision to Lead on Autonomous Mobility through Innovative Development, Testing, and Deployment

The creation of Autonomous Illinois through an executive order signed by Governor Bruce Rauner puts the state on track to be a leader in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles. 

CLICK THE IMAGE TO WATCH SIMULATION! Developed By: Yun Yi Group of the UIUC School of Architecture.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Randall S. Blankenhorn announced the new statewide, multi-agency initiative on October 24th, emphasizing that Illinois is a transportation hub for the entire country. Blankenhorn said now is the time for Illinois to lead the cutting-edge development and deployment of autonomous and connected mobility. Examples of news coverage on the announcement can be found here and here.

The Smart Transportation Infrastructure Initiative (STII) has been working diligently for the past year to bring together expertise and knowledge from academia (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago); industry (including the Illinois Autonomous Vehicles Association); and government and align advanced research with IDOT’s envisioned autonomous vehicle testing program to support the innovation and deployment of safe automated transportation.  The intent of this collaboration is to work with IDOT to build a unique and innovative research facility in Rantoul, Illinois, called the Illinois-Automated and Connected Track (I-ACT).

Plan view of proposed Illinois-Automated Connected Track (I-ACT).

Over the last few months, STII and IDOT have analyzed the responses to our Request for Information (RFI), developed jointly by IDOT and STII, and publicly released last summer. As part of the RFI process, STII members and IDOT hosted a Project Information Day where industry leaders were invited and plans to collaborate and expand the initiative were made. That was followed by one-on-one meetings with some of the stakeholders.

Secretary Blankenhorn, IDOT administrators, and UIUC, NU, and UIC leaders discussing the I-ACT vision.

On October 17th, STII leaders from the three universities met with Blankenhorn and his deputies to continue discussing the collaboration between academia, industry, and government to develop I-ACT. At the declaration of Autonomous Illinois, Blankenhorn affirmed that IDOT intends the testing be conducted safely in Illinois and that the state supports the vision of STII and I-ACT in Rantoul, IL.

UIC Dean of Engineering and Director of the Artificial Intelligence Center Pete Nelson said, “UIC has been actively involved in this field and we are very pleased to team up with UIUC and NW for this impressive vision of I-ACT. We are also looking forward to working in collaboration with IDOT and industry.”

“I-ACT will provide a critical capability for a comprehensive research and development program to support planning and deployment of autonomous mobility in freight and logistics,” Northwestern University Transportation Center Director Hani Mahmassani said.

Susan Martinis, Vice Chancellor for Research at UIUC, stated, “I-ACT unites the substantial transportation engineering strengths of three great universities and will build on Illinois’ interdisciplinary approach and our major campus focus on autonomous systems.”

Imad Al-Qadi, STII Director, said, “IDOT and UIUC have more than 75 years of successful collaboration, including the Illinois Center for Transportation. The ongoing collaboration and discussions between the three universities, through STII, and IDOT have been very fruitful over the past year. STII is ready and eager to use its resources and expertise to work with IDOT, other agencies, and industry to propel Illinois as a leader in autonomous mobility.”

For more information about STII updates, visit our webpage.