Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track conceptualization completed

10/10/2022 McCall Macomber

AECOM has completed the conceptualization plan for the Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track, ICT's proposed high-speed, multimodal test track in Rantoul.

Written by McCall Macomber

By McCall Macomber, Illinois Center for Transportation

AECOM has completed the conceptualization plan for the Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track (I-ACT), Illinois Center for Transportation’s (ICT) proposed high-speed, multimodal test track in Rantoul, Ill. The plan provides a roadmap for moving forward into the design and construction phases as well as initializes a cost estimate and schedule for I-ACT’s execution.

AECOM’s plan for the University of Illinois track includes a three-lane test track for high-speed, continuous testing of multimodal connected and autonomous transport such as freight trucks, cars and drones. The track will contain simulated environments for research on urban, suburban and rural areas as well as all-weather conditions. I-ACT’s facilities will include research and fleet maintenance buildings as well as an adjacent data center to house data storage and computing facilities.

View AECOM's conceptual video of I-ACT’s facilities at the top of this page.

AECOM also performed a preliminary assessment of potential sites and conducted an environmental site assessment to assess potential risks.

The track will be located on and near the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul — a central location accessible to major national transportation hubs like Chicago and world-renowned research facilities.

Next, a schematic design of I-ACT’s various components will be developed before moving forward with construction, which is expected to take 12-15 months.

The I-ACT initiative will establish partnerships between government agencies, academic institutions, key industry members and nonprofit organizations. These stakeholders will meet in the fall to discuss the conceptualization plan, and the I-ACT team will gather feedback and direction for the track’s design and its critical research areas.

Imad Al-Qadi
Imad Al-Qadi

Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Imad Al-Qadi, ICT director and UIUC Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering, is thrilled about I-ACT’s possibilities, which is poised to lead the rapidly evolving transportation industry through real-world development and testing of connected and autonomous multimodal transport.

“The transportation industry is rapidly evolving, as emerging technologies such as 5G communications, energy harvesting and electrification are transforming how we travel and move goods,” Al-Qadi said.

“I-ACT is poised to lead this transformation through real-world development and testing of smart, connected, autonomous and multimodal transport while improving mobility safety, efficiency, resilience and sustainability,” he added.

Studies focusing on developing and exploring research ideas for I-ACT are already underway. The projects will engage disciplines and departments across the UIUC campus and other partners, develop cutting-edge research in mobility connectivity and autonomy, contribute to innovative ideas explored at ICT and help generate external funding to support I-ACT. Selected projects are listed below, in alphabetical order:

ICT is also exploring electrification, drone-delivery, and autonomous and connected vehicles in Illinois Department of Transportation-sponsored projects. The efforts range from preparing policy and design guidelines for mid-sized cities (R27-211), creating a blueprint for the future of mobility in Illinois (R27-228) to developing a plan to support electric vehicles in the state (R27-236).

The Illinois Center for Transportation is an innovative partnership between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ICT builds on the experience of renowned experts in transportation and related fields at the U of I, IDOT and other universities by providing the appropriate tools and support required for objective research.  

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This story was published October 10, 2022.