You are here

Exploratory Advanced Research Overview

  • Figure shows four stacked photos in a square arrangement.  The top left photo is a street scene showing homes and parked cars to

    Breakthroughs in Computer Vision for Highway Transportation Research

    FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program working with the Office of Safety R&D is exploring breakthroughs in machine learning for automating extraction of safety data from video files to dramatically reduce the costs of using these data, making them accessible to the widest possible pool of researchers.
  • Photo shows two white mid-sized SUVs approaching a railroad crossing on a test track.

    Simulating Connected Vehicle Technologies in Virtual Traffic Environments

    Connected vehicle (CV) technology exchanges information between vehicles, mobile devices, and traffic control systems using vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure wireless communication. CV data can be used to enhance safety, improve traffic flow, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce emissions.
  • Novel Surface Transportation Modes Report Cover

    Novel Modes Explored During Multimodal Workshop

    The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation published summary reports on a 2014 Novel Modes Workshop. This initial stage investigation was a multimodal effort, supported by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program.
  • The Impact of Automated Transit, Pedestrian, and Bicycling Facilities on Urban Travel Patterns Report Cover

    The Impact of Automated Transit, Pedestrian, and Bicycling Facilities on Urban Travel Patterns

    A recent summary report from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program provides an overview of research into the potential of a hypothetical driverless vehicle to improve access to and use of an available rapid-transit rail service.
  • A photo showing three trucks traveling on a multi-lane highway at equally spaced intervals within a platoon.

    Research Projects Use CACC to Improve Truck Platooning

    The EAR Program has funded research on technology and strategies to allow two and three long-distance trucks to travel close together in platoons using cooperative adaptive cruise control.


National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes Solicits Proposals

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program, Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, and Operations Research and Development Office have been coordinating with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to include surface transportation as part of a new program solicitation for the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes. NSF plans to fund AI Research Institutes up to $4 million annually for up to 5 years and provide grants worth $500,000. This solicitation includes a planning track and an institutes track. Proposals for the institutes track must have a principal focus on one or more of six themes. One theme is Trustworthy AI, which is a critical element of connected and automated vehicle systems and of AI systems that support human decisionmaking for highway policy, planning, or operational uses. The solicitation seeks use-inspired research that advances foundational learning while solving real-world use cases. More information about the solicitation and proposal due dates can be found here.

Report Examines How Breakthroughs Emerge from Long-Term, High-Risk Research

A report titled Back-Casting Breakthrough Research in the Transportation Sector presents a historical analysis of breakthrough research in highway transportation on behalf of FHWA's EAR Program. The report provides a better understanding of how transportation-related breakthroughs emerge from long-term, high-risk research so that the EAR Program and other research and development programs can hone their assessments of potential impacts from the selection of topics to the transitioning of Program results through applied research. The results from this exercise could assist in setting realistic expectations about the time and paths from scientific and technology breakthroughs to implementation.

The report draws four conclusions. First, research breakthroughs require an environment of sustained public-sector support for research. Second, breakthrough research outcomes offer solutions to vexing transportation problems and clear benefits for end users. Third, research breakthroughs build on and combine related technological developments across multiple disciplines or by combined expertise across fields. Fourth, breakthroughs require iterative experimental studies and pilot deployments to help ensure widespread acceptance. For more information, read the full report here.

EAR Program Marks 10 Years of Research Results

FHWA's EAR Program published the EAR Program Research Results catalog, which was updated to include summary descriptions of research results through 2018. The catalog's publication marks the 10th anniversary of the EAR Program providing research results. The EAR Program addresses longer term, higher risk breakthrough research with the potential for improving the planning, building, renewing, and operating of safe, congestion-free, and environmentally sound transportation facilities.

Technology Readiness Level Guidebook Released

A publication by the EAR Program helps those working in transportation research conduct an evaluation to determine the maturity of a technology and identify the next steps in the research process. The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Guidebook explains what a TRL is and how to prepare for, conduct, and use the results of TRL assessments. [more]

Read the full text of the TRL Guidebook.

NRC Postdoctoral Fellows Help EAR Program Solve Transportation Issues

The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) conducts research across a wide range of topics and disciplines. To supplement the expertise of the permanent staff, it is important to bring in researchers with the appropriate backgrounds to investigate specific problems at short-term basis. Through the EAR Program, FHWA utilizes the Resident Associateship (or Postdoctoral Fellows) Program of the National Research Council (NRC) for this purpose. The NRC provides a process for selecting candidates on a competitive merit basis and subsequently for administration of the Resident Fellows during their tenures at FHWA.

To learn more about this program, visit the NRC Associates page. For more information about research being conducted by NRC Associates, go to Ongoing Research.

Is It Possible for a Bridge to "Feel" Changes in Loading Caused by Traffic or the Environment and Respond by Redistributing Loads Throughout the Structure?

Answering this intriguing question is the goal of research supported by the EAR Program. The project, "Self-Sensing Adaptive Material for a New Generation of Multifunctional Bridge-Bearing Systems," is part of a 3-year EAR Program-funded inquiry into developing responsive smart materials for bridge components. The University of Nevada, Reno, is conducting the research under the EAR Program. Click here for more information.