UTC Research Institute gets federal grant and other business news

UTC photo by Angela Foster / People attend a news conference to Monday, May 1, 2023, at the Multidisciplinary Research Building at UTC.

UTC wins grant for tech mobility

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is one of 90 organizations within a statewide coalition that has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the state's Advancing Technology-Enabled Mobility Solutions program.

ATEMS-TN is an alliance of academics, industry and technical societies that is trying to position Tennessee to compete for up to $160 million in federal funding awarded in 2025 to implement their strategy.

UTC has a pivotal role in the initiative as a result of Dr. Mina Sartipi, executive director of the UTC Research Institute, serving as chief research officer for ATEMS-TN. The project is led by Dr. Kevin Heaslip, director of the UT Knoxville Center for Transportation Research.

"We are excited to be a core partner in the ATEMS-TN coalition that represents such a diverse array of expertise and partners critical to envisioning a transportation mobility strategy of the future for Tennessee that can take advantage of emerging technologies while meeting the needs of citizens and enhancing competitiveness statewide," Sartipi said in a statement Thursday.

Sartipi said the new UTC Research Institute is focusing on transportation as one of its research pillars.

Mortgage rates drop to 5-week low

The average rate on a long-term U.S. home loan is down to the lowest level in five weeks, welcome news for house hunters facing a market constrained by persistently high prices and a near-historic low number of homes for sale.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan inched down to 6.35% from 6.39% last week. The average rate a year ago was 5.30%.

The average benchmark rate has now edged lower seven of the last nine weeks since reaching a high for this year of 6.73% in early March.

"This week's decrease continues a recent sideways trend in mortgage rates, which is a welcome departure from the record increases of last year," said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "While inflation remains elevated, its rate of growth has moderated and is expected to decelerate over the remainder of 2023. This should bode well for the trajectory of mortgage rates over the long-term."

Jobless claims rise to highest since 2021

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week rose to its highest level in a year-and-a-half, though jobs remain plentiful by historical standards even as companies cut costs as the economy slows.

Applications for jobless aid for the week ending May 6 rose by 22,000 to 264,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's up from the previous week's 242,000 and is the most since November of 2021.

The weekly number of applications is seen as roughly representative of the number of U.S. layoffs.

Buttigieg says Tesla isn't yet 'autopilot'

Tesla shouldn't be calling its partially automated driving system Autopilot because the cars can't drive themselves, the top U.S. transportation official says.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he's concerned about Tesla's marketing of the system, which is under investigation by his department in connection with crashes that have caused at least 14 deaths.

"I don't think that something should be called, for example, an Autopilot, when the fine print says you need to have your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times," Buttigieg said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sent investigative teams to more than 30 crashes since 2016 in which Teslas suspected of operating on Autopilot or its more sophisticated automated Full Self-Driving system have struck pedestrians, motorcyclists, semi trailers and parked emergency vehicles.

CSX train derails in West Tennessee

Part of a CSX Corp. train carrying grain and carbon material derailed early Thursday in rural west Tennessee, but no injuries were reported and there was no danger to the public, officials said.

CSX said nine loaded cars derailed at about 4:20 a.m. in Mason, a small town about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Memphis.

The cars contained grain and carbon B material, officials said. Carbon B is a fine black powder used as a reinforcing agent in rubber compounds, such as tires, and as a black pigment in printing inks, surface coatings, paper and plastics, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Crews from various fire departments responded to the derailment, Covington Fire Chief Richard Griggs said.

Three cars partially ended up in a small creek, CSX said, and there were no injuries to the train crew.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner