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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
OFFICE OF RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND TECHNOLOGY AT THE TURNER-FAIRBANK HIGHWAY RESEARCH CENTER

Innovative Ideas

Since the initial set of think tank forums in 2005, the EAR Program has been conducting smaller, more focused investigations. This process includes conducting reference searches of published and unpublished materials, visiting leading researchers and laboratories (many in disciplines not traditionally associated with highway research), and convening workshops to bring together researchers from different fields and leaders in highway research to explore how fundamental scientific and engineering advances could respond to current or emerging highway needs.

How Initial-Stage Investigations Lead to EAR Program Investment in High-Return Research

Not all innovative ideas lead to EAR Program investments. Of the 15 to 20 ideas that the EAR Program considers annually, about 25 percent lead to EAR Program funded research. The EAR Program seeks to leverage advances in science and engineering that could lead to breakthrough research for critical current and emerging issues in highway transportation. The focus of this effort is to investigate issues that can be clearly articulated but where solutions are not obvious and to engage a community of experts from different disciplines who likely have the talent and the interest to research solutions but would not otherwise be able to do so without EAR Program funding.

In 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held a series of think tank forums that brought together a cross section of stakeholders and partners to make recommendations for a corporate, strategic, advanced research agenda for FHWA. Three such forums were organized to explore future advanced research possibilities within a set of domains relevant to the mission of FHWA.

Summary of EAR-Sponsored Think Tanks (2005)

  • Boston
  • Minneapolis
  • Berkeley

Initial Stage Investigations (Examples of Investments Based on Investigations)

  • Nanoscale Science
  • Cement Hydration Modeling
  • Agent-Based Modeling
  • Experimental Economics
  • National Transportation Demand Model

Summary of Initial-Stage Investigations 2006–2010 (Focus Areas)

  • Breakthrough Concepts in Materials Science
  • Human Behavior and Travel Choices
  • Integrated Highway System Concepts
  • New Technology and Advanced Policies for Energy and Resource Conservation
  • Technology for Assessing Performance
  • Nanoscale Research (crosscutting focus area)
  • Information Sciences (crosscutting focus area)

Summary of Initial-Stage Investigations 2011–2014 (Focus Areas)

  • Breakthrough Concepts in Materials Science
  • Connected Highway and Vehicle System Concepts
  • Human Behavior and Travel Choices
  • Integrated Highway System Concepts
  • New Technology and Advanced Policies for Energy and Resource Conservation
  • Technology for Assessing Performance

Research on the Future

Resources for learning more about trends that may impact the transportation industry and, thus, the industry’s research needs over the next generation are categorized under three areas: (1) research programs and institutes; (2) related research reports; and (3) popular articles.

Last updated: Thursday, March 17, 2022