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Transportation officials and researchers from Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania this month announced plans to jointly advance autonomous and connected vehicle technology.

The newly formed Smart Belt Coalition, officials said, would support research, testing and deployment of advanced automotive technologies as well as facilitate the sharing of data among its partners. 
 
The initiative would also enable policymakers to discuss regulatory and funding issues and provide a resource for the private sector. 
 
"This initiative highlights the collaboration we know will be necessary as mobility evolves at an exponential pace," Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said in a statement. 
 
Officials said that all three states are currently conducting research on advanced vehicle systems and feature similar climates and commercial truck traffic.

The coalition's strategic plan will initially focus on utilizing connected and autonomous technology in road work zones, taking advantage of opportunities in commercial freight — including connecting multiple vehicles — and improving incident management applications. 
 
The partnership includes each state's respective transportation department, along with the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. 

 Academic partners include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University as well as the American Center for Mobility in Michigan and the Transportation Research Center in Ohio. 
 
The group met several times last year and will formalize the coalition in a forthcoming memorandum of understanding. Additional partners could join the effort in the future. 
 
"This multi-state partnership not only offers fantastic collaboration opportunities, but will also bring some consistency to testing scenarios that will help the private sector as they develop these technologies," said Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards.

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