Robert C. Johns Research Partnership Award

The Robert C. Johns Research Partnership Award is presented annually to a team of individuals who have collaboratively drawn on their diverse expertise to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

The award is named in honor of former CTS director Robert Johns, who provided visionary leadership in recognizing that the most effective research to address today’s complex transportation challenges is often a result of interdisciplinary teamwork and partnerships. He demonstrated this by developing and leading several major CTS studies, including transportation and regional growth, transportation and community design, and access to destinations. He continued to champion interdisciplinary research as director of the USDOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.


This award recognizes research projects within the CTS program that have the following qualities:

  • Included an interdisciplinary research component led by University of Minnesota faculty or research staff
  • Involved University of Minnesota students
  • Produced significant findings that have influenced transportation practice and/or policy
  • Generated measured benefits as a result of the impacts of the research
  • Involved a team of individuals representing one or more sectors of society (i.e., public, academic, private, non-profit)

2023 Recipient

Snowplow Driver-Assist System

2023 Research Partnership Award winners
Members of the research team and Robert Johns (second from left) at the 2023 CTS Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon

During harsh winter conditions, snowplow drivers’ visibility can be severely compromised, making it difficult to keep these complex vehicles centered on roadways and away from obstacles. For nearly three decades, members of the research team have worked in the lab and the field—literally shoulder-to-shoulder with drivers—to improve safety and performance. Leveraging evolving GPS, camera, and related technologies, the at-a-glance system assists drivers with navigation and alerts them to potential hazards. Researched in Minnesota and Alaska, the Driver Assist System is used today in MnDOT and Dakota County fleets even as it is being further tested and refined for adoption throughout the state.

Team Members

University of Minnesota: Max Donath, Nate Davies, Brian Davis, Annette Fritze, Chen-Fu Liao, Nichole Morris, Gordon Parikh, Katelyn Schwieters

Dakota County: Kevin Schlangen

MnDOT: Nathan Anderson, James Bogardt, Jed Falgren, Chase Fester, Cory Johnson, Sue Lodahl, Tim Murphy, Daniel Rowe, Michael Simon, Bruce Thompson

Watch a video about the project

Past Recipients

View a list of research projects that have previously received the Research Partnership Award.