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Exploratory Advanced Research Overview

Announcements

National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes Solicit Proposals

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program, along with Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, and Operations Research and Development (R&D) Office are coordinating with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to include surface transportation as part of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes program. The NSF plans to fund AI Institutes at up to $4 million annually for up to 5 years. The solicitation seeks use-inspired research that advances foundational learning while solving real-world use cases and focuses on one or more themes. One theme is AI Institute in Dynamic Systems. Improving the use of AI for dynamic systems has important potential uses for improving highway transportation. Proposals are due by December 4, 2020.  Click here for additional information about the solicitation and proposal due dates.

Research Associate Stays Productive While Working from Home

The Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program funds and manages a Research Associateship Program for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This program provides high-quality, post-doctoral research associates to FHWA offices. Dr. Seyedehsan Dadvar is an example of one such productive research associate. He presented at an Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE)-sponsored webinar titled, “Guidance for Crash Modification Factors (CMFs) Selection and Application,” on May 5, 2020. Dr. Dadvar presented on CMFs, which can be used to measure the effectiveness of roadway safety treatments. He is scheduled to present at another ITE-sponsored webinar in August 2020 titled, “ITE Safety Fundamentals Webinar Series: Basic Statistics – Predictive Methodology.” Dr. Dadvar works with the FHWA Office of Safety Research and Development under the guidance of his research adviser Dr. Clayton Chen.

EAR Program Exploring Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Technology

The EAR Program is exploring the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology within the surface transportation sector. By working with universities, industry, and Government conducting cutting-edge research in these fields, FHWA ultimately seeks to make surface transportation safer and more efficient. To learn about how the EAR Program is supporting research in these areas, read the brochure The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning in Federally Supported Surface Transportation Initiatives.

The EAR Program also has funded three new computer vision research projects: Deep InSight: Deep Extraction of Driver State from Naturalistic Driving Dataset; Video Analytics for Automatic Annotation of Driver Behavior and Driving Situations in Naturalistic Driving Data; and Automated Video Processing Algorithms to Detect and Classify High-Level Behaviors with Speed and Accuracy.

Cultivating Materials Science Research

To combat the wear and tear that bridges and highways face, researchers are keen to explore how to build structures that are more durable and longer lasting. One way to approach this problem is through materials science. Materials science is a multidisciplinary approach to the scientific study of the production and use of materials through the lenses of chemistry, physics, and engineering.

FHWA's EAR Program actively supports research in materials science to address the health of U.S. highway structures and pavements and to provide a greater range of predictable materials for construction and repair of bridges and pavements. For the EAR Program, agency support and funding have focused on developing highway materials that not only emphasize enhanced functionality but also stress sustainability and cost savings.

The EAR Program recently awarded research funding for four new projects related to supplementary materials for highway pavements and structures. Three of the awards focus on different aspects of supplementary cementitious materials that could provide State DOTs with more reliable options of materials when designing and building roadways and structures. Awards went to Purdue University to examine the use of nontraditional and natural pozzolan-based materials or inorganic polymers; Oklahoma State University to develop classification methods for reclaimed fly ash; and the University of California, Los Angeles, to use machine learning methods to predict and optimize the performance of fly ash-containing binders in concrete. The fourth award went to researchers at Auburn University who are focusing on reducing the aging of asphalt binders so roadways last longer.

To learn more about the EAR Program's support for materials science research, read the brochure Cultivating Materials Science Research to Benefit Surface Transportation Initiatives, the fact sheet Inorganic Polymers: Novel Ordinary Portland Cement-Free Binders for Transportation Infrastructure, and the summary report Mechanisms of Hydration and Setting of Ordinary Portland Cement in Simple and Complex Systems.

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.