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Don’t Take Lidar for Grant – ed: Transportation Funds are Flowing

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is looking for innovative new projects to help solve big transportation challenges like safety, equity, and sustainability. Billions of dollars in new grants will be up for competition over the next 5 years, and lidar can help states and communities tackle critical infrastructure challenges.

While adding cutting edge technology to transportation projects can feel overwhelming and complicated, it doesn’t have to be. AEye can work with agencies and other technology vendors to identify how lidar can be a part of their safety solution. With unprecedented federal funding, we can also help identify how lidar can bolster project applications to meet the Department’s goals of creating a transformational transportation system.

So, what grant opportunities exist?

Let’s start with the Smart Grant

This fall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) established the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation discretionary grant program (SMART). The SMART program allocates $100 million each year for the next five years to public sector agencies launching innovative new projects focused on advanced smart community technologies and systems to improve transportation efficiency and safety.

Lidar is a great candidate for SMART grant projects, as it provides cities and states the speed and accuracy needed – across weather, lighting, and environmental conditions – to solve their most pressing traffic and transportation issues. AEye’s is the industry’s only adaptive, solid-state, and software-definable lidar, which allows for not only more accurate, timely, and reliable vision compared to camera or radar-only systems, but for multiple ITS applications and both long-and-short-range detection using only one sensor.

Some of the infrastructure challenges that lidar can help states and communities address are pedestrian and bicyclist safety, automatic incident monitoring and wrong-way driving, vehicle identification and analysis, advancing connected vehicles, and rail safety.

Pedestrian and bicyclist safety is a high priority for cities globally. In the U.S., more than 6500 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2020 – that’s an average of 18 pedestrians a day. Cities and states can utilize lidar, which provides extreme accuracy in position, speed and heading, to monitor pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections and in crosswalks. By passing critical information to controllers and pushing helpful data, such as near-miss events, to traffic planners, transportation officials engaging in connected vehicle pilots and installations utilizing lidar can make vulnerable road users safer.

In the case of automatic incident monitoring and wrong-way driving, lidar can help monitor traffic flows on streets and highways – identifying incidents that impact traffic flow, like an object on the road or an emergency vehicle stopped on the road ahead. This can give drivers advanced warning and help operations managers to understand what’s happening on their infrastructure. Lidar can also detect drivers who go the wrong way on on-ramps and highways, enabling the driver, nearby drivers, and law enforcement to be alerted.

Lidar can help identify vehicle movement for analysis, which helps communities identify and prevent safety incidents. This may include such things as turning movement counts, arrivals on red/green, and speeding analysis/enforcement.

Advancing Transportation Technology and Innovation

Another program the DOT recently launched that leverages technology to improve transportation infrastructure and make communities safer is ATTAIN, or Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation. The Department has made available $60 million for competitive grants for the development of model deployment sites for large scale installation and operation of advanced transportation technologies to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investments. The goal is to demonstrate how emerging transportation technologies, data, and their applications can be effectively deployed and integrated with existing systems to provide access to essential services and other destinations, including efforts to increase connectivity and mobility, and supporting workforce development.

These funds can also be used to incorporate lidar in your projects. Whether it’s deploying ITS solutions or advancing automated technology in transit buses, lidar can be used across a variety of applications to improve safety and efficiency.

Improving the Safety, Efficiency and Reliability of Rail

Another grant opportunity is the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant (CRISI), which goes to projects that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail. These include highway-rail grade crossing improvement projects and the deployment of rail safety technology. Lidar is an ideal technology to monitor grade level crossings, platforms and stations, and other track right-of-way areas for activity that may be putting lives in danger.

The SMART and ATTAIN grant Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) are open, with a deadline for submissions of Friday, November 18, 2022. CRISI applications for funding are due by December 1, 2022. To find out how lidar can be part of your safety solution, and how lidar can boost your Department of Transportation project applications, reach out to