The final webinar in the 2021 PA AV Summit Series, titled “Back Roads: Suburban & Rural Use Cases for Automated Vehicles,” was held Thursday, Aug. 12, from 2-3:30 p.m.

The sixth and final webinar in the 2021 PA AV Summit Series focused on equity of automated vehicle development and how automated vehicles can have positive impacts on rural and suburban areas. Automated vehicle development has thus far largely focused on urban environments, which present different safety and mobility problems from rural and suburban roads. This webinar explored how automated vehicles can be used to expand mobility in rural and suburban communities and solve the unique challenges these low-density environments present.

This webinar featured the following panelists:

  • Moderator: Jill Hough, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
  • Omar Ahmad, National Advanced Driving Simulator for the University of Iowa
  • Ranjit Godavarthy, North Dakota State University
  • David Kack, Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute
  • Amy Kessler, North Central Pennsylvania MPO
Omar Ahmad
National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa
Omar Ahmad is deputy director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa. For the past 25 years, he has worked on research studies related to studying vehicle safety and human performance. More recently, Ahmad is involved in a series of projects using on-road vehicles to demonstrate higher levels of automation. He is co-chair of the National Academies Transportation Research Board Committee on Road User Performance Measurement and Evaluation. He has master's degrees in computer science and business administration from the University of Iowa.
Ranjit Godavarthy
North Dakota State University
Dr. Ranjit Godavarthy is assistant professor of transportation and logistics at North Dakota State University. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees in transportation engineering from Kansas State University, Manhattan. He is involved in working with various transportation policy and planning research projects in areas such as rural mobility, public transportation, shared-use mobility, transit automation, and traffic operations. Godavarthy is a faculty member at NDSU's transportation, logistics, and finance Department as well as an associate research fellow at Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility, which is a program at Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.
Jill Hough
Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
Dr. Jill Hough is the director of UGPTI's Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility at North Dakota State University. The center focuses on increasing the mobility of small urban and rural residents throughout the United States and abroad through innovative research, education, and outreach. Hough has more than 25 years of experience in transportation and has authored or co-authored numerous research reports and journal articles. Currently, her primary research areas relate to shared-use mobility, transportation's role in access to food deserts, mobility of the elderly and disadvantaged, livability, and intelligent transportation systems. Hough has developed transportation and leadership curriculum as well as taught and advised graduate students. She has served in several leadership positions both nationally and internationally. Hough earned her Ph.D. at the University of California Davis in transportation technology and policy.
David Kack
Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute
David Kack is the executive director of the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University-Bozeman, where he also serves as the director of the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), a Tier I University Transportation Center (UTC). Kack has 20 years of experience in public transportation coordination, management, and planning, and has worked on numerous projects to develop and improve rural passenger transportation systems, including conducting intercity bus service studies in both Montana and Wyoming. He has helped three communities in Montana start public transportation systems and has an ongoing management role with two of those systems.
Amy Kessler
North Central Pennsylvania MPO
Amy Kessler is the director of community development and regional planning for the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, a six-county local development district serving Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, and Potter counties — and which serves as one of PennDOT's Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs). For the past 20-plus years, Kessler has been responsible for regional transportation planning, project and program development, community outreach, environmental justice, and intermodal and transportation research. She serves on numerous state and national committees and most recently was selected to the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Board of Directors. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh.