Killeen tours ICT, praises vision for connected and autonomous vehicle test track
5/6/2022 9:19:10 AM
By McCall Macomber, Illinois Center for Transportation
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) president Timothy Killeen visited the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT) on March 7, 2022. Killeen was joined by Chancellor Robert Jones, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Head Ana Barros, State Senator Scott Bennett and Village of Rantoul Mayor Charles Smith, among others.
Killeen’s visit included an overview of ICT’s proposed high-speed connected and autonomous vehicle test track, known as the Illinois Autonomous and Connected Track, from Imad Al-Qadi, ICT director and UIUC Bliss Professor of Engineering.
The track will include high-speed freight and vehicle loops, connected infrastructure and large data-handling. I-ACT will feature multimodal transport for road, air and rail, and it includes controlled, four-season climatic conditions and instrumented infrastructure, among many unique features.
Researchers will have the opportunity to study energy harvesting and electrification, dynamic vehicle testing, drone technology, agricultural testbed and market roads as well as urban, suburban and rural settings.
The Rantoul Village Board approved a lease agreement with the University of Illinois for the track on Aug. 10, 2021. Infrastructure consulting firm AECOM is currently conceptualizing the track, which is expected to stretch over 900 acres at Rantoul’s former Chanute Air Force Base.
After Al-Qadi’s presentation, Killeen remarked that I-ACT is a “great vision” and appreciates the track’s aim to combat “big problems” such as climate change, safety, workforce needs and policy development.
Chancellor Jones praised I-ACT’s ambition to “take on the entire mobility ecosystem” rather than a small niche.
Killeen also stated that Illinois, which is the hub of the nation’s air, rail and freight transportation systems, “has to take leadership” in the future of connected and autonomous vehicles and that it is the University of Illinois’ “responsibility to take on such an endeavor.”
He also praised the Village of Rantoul for being an active partner to help make the proposed test track a reality.
Following Al-Qadi’s presentation, CEE faculty, staff and graduate students led Killeen and fellow visitors on a tour of ICT’s state-of-the-art facilities.
The visitors toured ICT’s research laboratory, which advances the state of knowledge by developing innovative, economical and reliable technologies for airport, highway and rail systems. Greg Renshaw, ICT’s principal research engineer, also took the visitors on a tour of I-ACT’s potential site.
Al-Qadi couldn’t be more thrilled at what the future holds for the proposed track.
“I-ACT is gaining momentum,” Al-Qadi said, “and I am pleased with the support we are receiving from university officials and the state government.”
“I am pleased the president had the chance to visit ICT and discuss the plans for I-ACT,” Al-Qadi added. “The support from the chancellor, vice chancellor for research, dean, CEE head, Village of Rantoul, local and state officials, and academic and industry partners has been exceptional.”