Michigan Tech domestic transportation study gets U.S. funding

What's happening: Michigan Technological University's Associate Professor Kuilin Zhang has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This funding will support the development of technology aimed at creating a low-carbon, intermodal freight transportation system for the future. The project at Michigan Tech focuses on designing a practical tool that will enable shipping, rail, and trucking companies to streamline their logistics through predictive planning and real-time decision-making, ultimately leading to significant savings in time, energy, and costs. Zhang and Michigan Tech is the only group researching this issue in Michigan to receive this grant.

What is the project: Zhang specializes in transportation systems and computer science, so he developed a project titled, “A Decarbonized and Resilient Intermodal Freight Transportation Modeling Platform for Intermodal Logistical Decisions Under Uncertainty,” shortened to DRIFT by Michigan Tech. The key determining factor is “intermodal,” which deals with goods shipped in multiple ways to reach a destination. DRIFT would be able to find what infrastructure projects could greatly improve the reliability of getting materials to factories and factories to businesses while also improving delivery times and limiting emissions that harm the environment.

What they're saying: “In my vision of the future, we have more predictable, more robust, safer and greener transportation and logistics systems — and it’s based on being connected and the data we can gather,” said Zhang. “Our goal is to minimize time, cost and energy, including under disruptions, in order to improve resilience, with all the modes — maritime, rail and road — working together to get the goods from ports to warehouses and then to the final customers.”

What's next: An industry advisory board is being formed through the university to make sure all relevant information is included in the project. 

“The involvement of direct industry representatives and trade associations is critical to the development of solutions that address their core needs within the constraints of operating a viable commercial enterprise,” said Jim Baker, Michigan Tech associate vice president for research administration. “Feedback and guidance from industry advisory board representatives will ensure that the outcomes of this project can be immediately adopted within their operations upon completion.”
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