White House honors James Sayer for innovation in transportation


The University of Michigan’s James Sayer will be honored at the White House Tuesday for his leadership in advancing connected and automated transportation.

Sayer, a research scientist at the U-M Transportation Research Institute and deployment director for the Mobility Transformation Center, is one of 11 people from across the country who will receive a 2015 Transportation Champions of Change Award.

James Sayer

The award is given to transportation leaders “who have provided exemplary leadership in advancing transportation and championing innovation that will benefit our nation’s transportation system for decades to come.”

During the event, Sayer will be recognized by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and participate in a panel discussion where he will discuss his work.

“Jim Sayer is widely recognized as a leader in the field of connected vehicles,” said S. Jack Hu, interim vice president for research at U-M. “His work with the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment was instrumental in demonstrating the potential of the technology, and his ongoing work with the U-M Mobility Transformation Center, including the design and development of Mcity, is laying the foundation for a new era of driverless vehicles.”

Sayer was the principal investigator of the U.S. DOT-funded Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment and serves as the principal investigator for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment.

With support from U-M and the Michigan Department of Transportation, Sayer has overseen the creation, construction and operation of Mcity — the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to provide safe, rigorous, repeatable testing of connected and automated vehicle technologies before they are tried out in real traffic.

Mcity, part of the Mobility Transformation Center, simulates a broad range of complexities that vehicles and pedestrians encounter in urban and suburban traffic environments. It is located on North Campus in order to ensure student engagement in, and learning from, the development of connected and automated technologies.

“Every year, motor vehicle crashes claim thousands of lives. In fact, in the U.S., motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of people under 35 years old,” Sayer said. “Last year, alone, there were more than 30,000 fatalities. Connected vehicles could reduce up to 80 percent of unimpaired crashes.”

U-M, along with partners in government and industry, has made significant investments in the advancement of intelligent transportation, including connected and automated vehicle technologies, Sayer said.

Since 2012, U-M has been the test conductor for the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment, the largest connected vehicle pilot in the world. U-M is expanding on that experiment with the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment. 

The deployment of connected vehicles and infrastructure technologies will soon expand from a small section of Ann Arbor to include the entire city, as well as add several thousand additional vehicles. It is one of three complementary, on-road vehicle deployments that, along with Mcity, will serve as test beds to evaluate the most promising approaches to connected and automated mobility.

“The Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment takes us from research to real-world deployment,” Sayer said. “Ann Arbor is the world’s first example of how connected vehicle and infrastructure technology can and will be utilized by an entire community in the future.”


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