Fort Worth Is Only Texas City To Snag $2M Federal ‘SMART’ Grant for Revolutionizing Transportation

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will pilot low-altitude weather sensors on freight routes used by autonomous vehicles.

The city of Fort Worth has been awarded $2 million through Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants funding, in partnership with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, for a project that will pilot low-altitude weather sensors on freight routes used by autonomous vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Fort Worth is one of 34 recipients of the fiscal year 2023 Planning and Prototyping Grants—and the only one in Texas. The pilot program will be conducted at the Alliance Truck Port.

There were 300 proposals submitted from across the U.S. for the grants.

Bad weather poses challenges for autonomous vehicles

Adverse weather conditions pose major challenges to the performance and safety of autonomous vehicles, the city of Fort Worth noted. Weather phenomena such as severe rainfall and dense fog can degrade the accuracy of critical vehicle sensors that could lead to inaccuracies affecting vehicle performance during hazardous road weather conditions.

The city said DOT-funded project will provide insight in technology solutions to enhance safety and trip reliability in a changing environment. 

Microclimate sensors offer a solution by providing precise, real-time localized weather data, enabling AVs to adapt to varying weather conditions and make informed decisions to enhance operational safety and reliability, the city added.

Reducing weather-related crashes like tragic 2021 pileup 

The city pointed to unpredictable weather such as in the winter of 2021, when a tragic vehicle pileup unfolded on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth due to treacherous, icy conditions—particularly black ice, which went unnoticed by drivers.

That pileup involved 130 vehicles, including cars, trucks, and 18-wheelers, resulting in what the city called a nightmarish crash scene spanning nearly a mile.

Six lives were lost, and numerous others were injured, the city said.

The city noted that many of the 18-wheelers involved were fully loaded and headed to the Intermodal Truck Depot at Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport for regional distribution, and said the disaster could have been avoided if appropriate weather sensors had been in place to warn drivers of the impending danger.

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