Aug 2, 2022 - News

University makes transportation plans

Photo: Jared Sorrells/4media group/courtesy of University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is evaluating its role in mobility education and research, developing a fresh plan for what the curriculum could look like in the near future, Heather Nachtmann, industrial engineering professor and associate dean for research, told Axios.

Why it matters: Arkansas companies unabashedly want the state to be a leader in "next-generation transportation" — from drones to flying cars.

  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year established a council dedicated to the future of mobility on which Nachtmann serves.

Driving the news: The university received a $412,000 grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to encourage efforts such as pilot research studies and education and workforce development planning.

The school is at the beginning of an eight-month planning process, using the grant money to outline the mobility program's future.

What's happening: The university wants to supply the workforce for existing and future companies, such as electric vehicle manufacturers in NWA, Nachtmann said. The school must also assess what long-term research initiatives it should take on and what's needed to accomplish that, including equipment and technological upgrades.

  • Mobility does not involve one program or department and can touch engineering, business or even health care specialities.

State of play: Transportation and logistics are not new for the U of A. The school has 50 faculty members who undertake research in these areas and has a history of working with employers such as Walmart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt.

Yes, but: More research must be done on newer modes of transportation. U of A could provide research to help companies determine when goods should be delivered via drone versus truck, for example, Nachtmann said.

Details: The primary focuses for the planning process are next generation vehicles, uncrewed aerial mobility and artificial intelligence.

  • The scope of the efforts will also include assessing what high schools, community colleges and trade schools in the region are doing to prepare students to participate in fields associated with mobility.

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