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Minneapolis Conference: Advancing Future Transportation with Breakthrough Innovations - Summary Report

mplssummary.pdf (62.24 KB)

1.0 Overview

Moving forward with the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) commitment to create a more robust advanced research program, a group of stakeholders with an interest in the future of transportation were invited to convene for a 1.5-day think tank forum, the second of three to be held in 2005. The Volpe Center and futurist Glen Hiemstra of provided planning support for the event. The intent of the forums is to seek ideas to assist FHWA in establishing a strategic agenda for advanced research.

This second forum was held at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Approximately 40 participants gathered for this interactive event, which included expert speakers on breakthrough technologies, such as nanotechnology, emerging intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and new vehicle technologies. A presentation on sustainable transportation and aligning values and behaviors balanced the forum discussion. Through a series of structured presentations and discussions, the participants explored issues impacting the future of transportation and identified advanced research needs. Then, using a modified version of the nominal group technique (a methodology for maximizing and equalizing individual input within a group process) for group decisionmaking, the participants developed a list of suggested research topics and ranked the priority items.

The following is a summary of the presentations, which framed the participants' discussion and identification of advanced research topics. The summary concludes with the participants' impressions and comments on the purpose of the forum and possible next steps for FHWA in the development of an advanced research agenda and program.

1.1 Forum Purpose

  1. Scan across disciplines, inside and outside the transportation area, to search for promising research and technology that could fundamentally improve transportation.
  2. Develop a set of recommended areas, topics, or questions for consideration as part of a strategic agenda for advanced research.

1.2 Recommending Advanced Research Agenda Topics

During the forum, participants convened in four working groups. In each group, individuals first listed their ideas for advanced research. Participants were asked to consider ideas that would be "game changers" by encouraging breakthrough innovation, have high leverage by providing high payoff in exchange for high risk, would fit between basic research and applied research, and would be strategic and seek outcomes rather than simply being interesting research. In addition, the groups were reminded of the two-part definition of advanced research provided by FHWA Associate Administrator Dennis Judycki, "Research that involves and draws upon basic research results to provide a better understanding of phenomena and develop innovative solutions. Sometimes referred to as exploratory research in order to convey its more fundamental character, its broader objectives, and the greater uncertainty in expected outcomes compared to problem-solving research."

After individuals had created their personal lists, they shared ideas around the table, and a master list was created for the group to help eliminate overlapping ideas. These ideas were then discussed at the table, with an emphasis on clarifying ideas and determining why particular ideas should be preferred over others. When called upon, the groups reported their lists to the entire forum. These results from each of the group results are listed in the appendix.

During the forum, the participants discussed the lists of ideas and identified themes and common ideas. The following is a list of some of the noted themes and ideas expressed by the participants:

  • Some research topics deal with things to do or build.
  • Other research topics deal with ways to change fundamental assumptions and approaches to the transportation game.
  • Perhaps we need a category for "what we have not thought of."
  • It is assumed the new materials will be developed.
  • The driver-vehicle-environment-technology interface could be improved or even revolutionized.
  • How can we increase pedestrian-based transportation?
  • How can we leverage resources via interagency research (e.g., switchgrass energy-rivers-environmental protection)?

After discussing these ideas, each working group went back to their group list, clarified their opinions, and then used nominal group technique to indicate their preference for the top research ideas. Each group then reported the top three to four priorities to all of the forum participants, which resulted in the creation of a list of 15 priority items. After discussing the list of 15 items, the participants expressed their preference for each item in another round of voting, using a weighted voting process. The results, which are listed below along with the vote total for each items, fell into three basic tiers:

2.0 Recommended Advanced Research Agenda Topics

Tier 1

  • The use of nanotechnology and smart structures for enhanced performance; from nanostructure to infrastructure. (32)
  • Innovative transportation pricing, including a full accounting of system structures and the environment. (24)
  • The interaction between land use and transportation. (23)
  • Social and political issues and concerns that affect breakthrough ideas. (21)
  • New ways to collect better data. (21)
  • The effect of transportation on public health. (19)

Tier 2

  • Surveying and tracking research in other areas to make linkages. (11)
  • Enhancing safety through human-vehicle interfaces. (11)
  • Extreme materials and methods for construction. (11)
  • Alternatives to the fuel tax. (9)

Tier 3

  • The effects of automated vehicle systems on driver behavior. (7)
  • Governance structures. (6)
  • Achieving significant pedestrian travel. (4)
  • Long-distance personal travel and multimodal travel. Answering the question of who provides for this type of travel and how? (4)
  • Develop regionally scaled institutional design. (3)

3.0 Forum Framework: Summary of Presentations and Discussion

The following is a summary of each presentation from the forum. The actual presentations will be included on the final CD-ROM as Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides in Adobe® Acrobat®Portable Document Format (PDF).

Day 1, September 20, 2005

3.1 Welcome:

FHWA Acting Administrator J. Richard Capka and Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Technology Dennis Judycki personally welcomed the attendees and provided background on the advanced research initiative. FHWA's mission includes enhancing mobility through innovation, leadership, and public service. The role of FHWA's research and technology activities cover the innovation process, development and deployment of new products and services, education, and training.

This workshop is the second of three to be held this year. Dennis Judycki mentioned that the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Research and Technology Coordinating Committee, which serves FHWA in an advisory capacity, will be briefed on the outcomes of these workshops in November 2005. As part of Associate Administrator Judycki's welcome, a video of Acting Administrator J. Richard Capka was shown. In the video, Acting Administrator Capka emphasized the value of the forum to FHWA and stressed the need to (1) raise awareness of what is going on in advanced research, (2) reward partnerships with funding, and (3) encourage innovation and move ideas into practice.

In addition, Associate Administrator Judycki provided an overview of FHWA's definition of advanced research and strategic vision as outlined in the Agency's Corporate Master Plan (CMP) for Research and Deployment of Technology & Innovation (FHWA-RD-03-077). He emphasized FHWA's strong interest in enabling innovations for a better transportation future. He also defined advanced research as exploratory research designed to develop a better understanding of phenomena and develop innovative solutions. Associate Administrator Judycki expressed the hope that the forums will identify advanced research theme clusters, with an emphasis on higher risk and long-term issues. Finally, he provided a brief overview of the recently passed Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation.

3.2 Table Exercise: What is Your Image of the Future?

Glen Hiemstra asked participants, "What words or pictures come to mind when thinking about the future?" This warmup exercise worked with the idea that images of the future play a powerful role in shaping present actions. Change the image of the future and one begins to change behavior in the present day. Individuals at tables shared their images of the future, and examples were cited for everyone to hear.

Sample images of the future articulated by participants included:

  • Automated, greater choices.
  • Increased personal mobility and privatization.
  • Unobtrusive technology and environmental consciousness.
  • Greater cost sharing and higher costs.
  • Balkanization and limited personal mobility
  • Affordable for all, with separate facilities for freight

3.3 Presentations: The World and Transportation in 2050

In his presentation, Hiemstra outlined the following key lessons:

  1. The future creates the present.
  2. Breakthroughs must be compelling.
  3. People you see in 2050 will be different.
  4. The energy tipping point is approaching.
  5. Great technology revolutions will come.
  6. The way it is is not the way it will be economically or environmentally.
  7. Vehicles, roads, and transportation systems will evolve or change fundamentally.
  8. Systems should be integrated.
  9. Everything that is impossible today may be possible someday.

Hiemstra then reviewed the broad trends shaping the world of transportation. The following are some highlights of that discussion:

  • Some parts of the world will shrink in population while the United States will grow by as many as 100 million people by 2050, depending on immigration policies. At the same time, U.S. growth may slow much sooner if fertility rates continue their downward trend.
  • Most population growth is concentrated in megacities.
  • Transportation and related businesses have become global.
  • Economic growth looks uncertain and full of discontinuities, although the developing world anticipates robust growth (with resulting demands for transportation).
  • The energy outlook is for plentiful supplies of carbon but not of cheap oil. The decreasing oil supply will lead to use of expensive dirty carbon. Thus, the next 50 years will see an energy transition sooner rather than later.

Hiemstra then asked questions about:

  • U.S. population growth projections, which seem exaggerated in light of global dynamics.
  • The impact of the aging population, which is underestimated.
  • Millenials, or digital natives, as the largest population cohort since the baby boomers.
  • The impact of the coming of age of the first digital native generation and taking information technology beyond what we "digital immigrants" imagine.
  • Maintaining economic growth and robustness with a declining population.
  • Whether we are at an energy tipping point (i.e., the end of cheap oil)? What happens if the end of oil comes sooner than expected? Will the use of alternative fuels increase or decrease health problems?
  • The impact of new technologies, vastly improved telecommunications, energy wave technologies, and nanotechnologies.
  • A greater technology revolution is yet to come.

3.4 Physical Performance, Infrastructure & Materials: Roundtable 1

Dr. James S. Murday, Executive Secretary of the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET), and former Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office gave the presentation, Nanotechnology--Hype and Hope as it Relates to Transportation, where he spoke about the following:

  • Nanotechnology is a buzzword.
  • At the nanoscale, things behave differently.
  • The "old" atomic world was limited by 100 elements.
  • The new nano world has an unlimited variety of building blocks.
  • Assembly rules in the nano world include atomic bonding plus Van der Waal forces, Coulomb forces, magnetic and molecular recognition, and many others yet to be uncovered.
  • Nano products are beginning to be developed in electronics and information technology, health care and life sciences, and manufacturing and materials.
  • Nano products in transportation include the use of higher performance composites, such as new coatings developed for the marine environment; higher performance metals; improved catalysis; increased energy alternatives; and reduced materials failures.
  • The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) includes $230 million for fundamental research through 2006.
  • NNI includes efforts in the aerospace, defense, security, energy, environment, and information arenas--in both memory and logic, and medicine and health.
  • NNI transportation gives the transportation industry the opportunity to steer investment through collaboration and identification of the most promising areas for advanced research.
  • Vehicles with nanotechnology will be lightweight, multipurpose, intelligently guided, comfortable, and use low amounts of energy.

Table Discussion: Following each presentation, participants discussed their impressions, and then presented their general comments to the whole group. The following list is a sample of some of the questions and comments resulting from the discussion:

  • Is there a shelf life to nanostructures? There is no shelf life until a nanostructure is stuck to something and degradation occurs, which means that anything air sensitive will be reactive and will "spoil."
  • Is there a role for nanotechnology in motor vehicle emissions control? The U.S. Department of Energy is looking into this.
  • We are spending too much money on nanotechnology research. How do we weigh how much we invest in one basic research area versus another? Nanotechnology research amounts to less than 1 percent of the $120 billion spent on technology research investment, which means that, relatively speaking, not much money has been spent on nanotechnology research.
  • Is there a way to convert carbon nanotubes into a 150-year bridge design? Doing this may cause many problems and issues to arise, including problems with the nomenclature itself, quality control, dispersion, and how to couple nanotubes into a composite. As computer technology improves, our understanding at the nanoscale will improve, which will lead to even better computing.

3.5 Operations, Technical Performance and Mobility Roundtable 2

Professor Max Donath, Director, Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, gave the presentation, Reducing Fatalities and Managing Congestion: Emerging Technologies Enabling 'Outside the Box' Solutions, where he discussed the following:

  • China will have a new and fundamental role as it emerges as a major player in all economic sectors, including transportation research.
  • China is building roads faster, which is contributing to increasing fatalities to 100,000 per year.
  • Our vision and focus must be on saving lives.
  • More fatalities are occurring in the United States because of lane departures.
  • More fatalities occur in rural rather than in urban areas, especially in Florida, New Jersey, and Texas.
  • Despite teens making up only 7 percent of all licensed drivers, they represent 14 percent of those who die on the road (i.e., teens are overrepresented among road fatalities).
  • Teenagers do not use seatbelts. In Minnesota, 60 percent of teenagers fatally injured in crashes were not wearing seatbelts.
  • Interlocking seatbelts and biometrics are needed.
  • We must reduce driver error and dramatically improve communication to the driver.
  • We need to focus on a human-centered approach with detection/prediction capabilities and corrective action.
  • Managing congestion may be a more reachable goal than reducing congestion.
  • Reliable travel times can reduce crashes.
  • Congestion pricing can reduce travel times and congestion.
  • Use narrower vehicles and narrower road lanes.
  • We must adapt technology to the user, not the reverse.
  • The grand challenge is in how to deploy technology to manage congestion.
  • Technology can inform, advise, warn, and teach.
  • We must be able to detect and predict when a vehicle is leaving a lane and map feedback to where it does the most good.
  • We must have the ability to detect when a driver is driving inappropriately.
  • Use of global positioning systems (GPS) and augmented reality is a solution. High-accuracy GPS maps can be used for sensor applications.
  • Who will set GPS standards?
  • Who will be responsible for digital maps?
  • What is the best way to signal a driver?
  • We must look at driving simulators as a tool to examine the unintended consequences of novel driver assistance technologies.
  • We must have a better driver reporting system and determine what normal driving behavior is.
  • A virtual reference station network using GPS/differential GPS (DGPS) can add capacity with narrower road lanes and/or narrower vehicles.
  • Bus rapid transit on the highway shoulder as a lane using sensors has been proven. We must pursue many approaches.
  • We need new vehicle positioning systems that overcome the limitations of GPS.

Table Discussion: Following the presentation, participants in groups discussed their impressions, and then presented their general comments to the whole group. The following list is a sample of some of the questions and comments resulting from the discussion:

  • What is the percentage of speeding crashes? One half of speeding crashes are the result of drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One third of fatal crashes are due to speeding and/or the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Is it feasible to automate highways? There are funding problems and the necessary redundancy is too costly. In addition, reengaging the driver to react accordingly takes too long.
  • Do we want to take the human out of the system? Should we?
  • We must look at behaviors and road design. It is useful to note that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is funding research on the detection of suspicious behavior. How can this be applied to solve transportation problems?
  • What is the role of combining high-tech and low-tech solutions such as the rumble strip?
  • We must get the drunk driver off the road. Just as important is the restriction of cell phone use while driving, which is more distracting and dangerous than drunk driving.
  • We must leverage the U.S. military's research and use of unmanned aerial vehicles for transportation.
  • The human-in-the-loop is more difficult to solve than the human-out-of-the-loop; we must keep the human in control with system backups.
  • Litigation is a problem. The one time something does not work can stop a technology cold. One death could stop the use of a technology that could otherwise save thousands of lives.

3.6 Sustainable Transportation for Sustainable Community: Roundtable 3

Jean Brittingham, Vice President of Global Technology and Solutions, CH2M HILL gave the presentation, Tipping Communities Towards Sustainable Transportation: Aligning Values and Behaviors, and discussed the following:

  • Technology alone cannot let us live our lives, maintain our health, sustain our economy, and enable us to pass it on to later generations.
  • We must have genuine political leadership and societal changes.
  • Focus on language, as language frames behavior. In this regard, marketing research is genuine research and should be treated as such.

The current framework for privately owned vehicles is as follows:

  1. Cars are safe.
  2. Cars are inherently more convenient.
  3. People will not leave their cars.
  4. Cars are not that bad for the environment.

The current framework for public transit is as follows:

  1. Public transit is available to anyone, so it is unsafe.
  2. Use of public transit suggests I am dependent.
  3. Public transit is noisy and not secure, and, therefore, is not private.
  4. Public transit is focused on the needs of others and not me.

Brittingham also discussed the following:

  • Words matter, and we must find new frames of reference.
  • People pay attention to facts.
  • In spite of a strong belief to the contrary, people do not act in their own best interests.
  • People respond to and make choices aligning with their own identity.
  • We must focus on finding and refining frames that put values people want in their lives back into play.
  • Reshape the language and reframe conversation.
  • Transportation choices are not just about transportation. They also are about personal health, community vitality, societal vitality, and fairness.
  • People are out of touch with the effects of individual choices. Language can put them back in touch.
  • Do not frame transportation in terms of "highway" or "road." Frame it as "urface transportation."
  • Use scenario planning to bring the future into play.
  • Expand existing tool kit to become robust by including shared databases to satisfy the engineer and planners.
  • Add elements that access values as well as facts.
  • Tools must not draw conclusions.
  • Seek new audiences and players, such as magnet schools, Imax®, and futurist games for the Generation Y set.
  • Market results of research and reframing evaluations.

Innovation for tipping points include the following: Changes in culture spread in patterns similar to diseases.

  1. There must be a disruption in normal patterns to bring about change.
  2. There are particular roles that are played in the spread and these roles can be manipulated.

Give alternatives a competitive chance with:

  1. New public-private partnerships.
  2. Added services and benefits.

Be honest about the role of policy:

  1. Vested interests exist, including past investments and the marketing machine.
  2. There is resistance to change, even when it is good.
  3. Entropy exists in the face of complexity.
  4. Reframing political will and the role of policymakers now and in the future is critical.

Table Discussion: Following the presentation, participants in groups discussed their impressions and then presented their general comments to the whole group. The following list is a sample of some of the questions and comments resulting from the discussion:

  • Technologists do not feel comfortable in an advocacy position, although framing an argument is valuable.
  • We need a pilot project at the Transportation Research Board similar to the Public Involvement committee.
  • A reframe might be the consideration of income/poverty effects.
  • Talk about schools and location.
  • What if we did not have a Highway Trust Fund?
  • Transportation and land use is an area to explore, including determination of the dynamics and the State and local issues.
  • The number one "red flag" is that increased land use for transportation takes away the freedom to use land any way you want.
  • There is a disconnect between land use and public transit. Why are developers not demanding more transit?
  • In Europe and the United Kingdom, it is easier to implement incentives to change.
  • We hope that a percentage of FHWA's advanced research funds will go into topics that use a systems approach.

3.7 Vehicles, Technology, and Energy: Roundtable 4

Amory Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of the Rocky Mountain Institute and coauthor of Winning the Oil End Game gave the presentation, Advanced Lightweight Vehicles: Key to the Oil Endgame, which discussed the following:

  • Advanced, lightweight vehicles are the key to the oil end game.
  • We can get off oil use within 10 years if led by for-profit industry. Energy future is a choice, not fate.
  • Oil insecurity, geopolitical rivalry, price volatility, climate stability, and depletion demand that we care.
  • Economic pressures are putting our core sectors at risk. Japan, Europe, and China will eat Detroit for lunch. National security and national competitiveness are at risk.

We will win this game by doing the following:

  1. Efficient end use can save half the oil at $12 per barrel.
  2. Biofuels can replace another fifth at $18 per barrel.
  3. Saved natural gas can displace the rest at $18 barrel.

How do we get to this point?

  1. Invest $90 billion in equipment and industry.
  2. Invest another $90 billion to advance the biofuel industry.

Capturing the prize:

  1. Creates 1 million jobs.
  2. Preserves 1 million existing jobs.
  3. Restores $150 billion per year to the economy.

Lovins also discussed the following:

  • Use ultralight composites, which absorb 6 to 12 times as much energy as steel, for vehicles.
  • Migrate this ultralight technology from the military skunk works [an offshoot or special project sometimes secret in nature] to civilian cars.
  • Europe already has concept versions of ultralight sport utility vehicles, such as the Revolution Ultralight.
  • New biofuel technology, such as ligrocellulosic technology, is showing returns. Brazil has replaced one-fourth of its gasoline with sugarcane ethanol without subsidies and already exports it to China and Japan.
  • In 2003, Europe made 17 times as much biofuel as the United States.
  • Saving 1 percent of electricity would save 2 percent of natural gas consumption. This begs the question, why are we not we doing this?
  • Forty-eight States currently reward electric companies for selling you more energy, not for lowering your bills. This is a fundamental public policy issue.
  • Oil will probably become uncompetitive even at low prices before we run out of it and it becomes unavailable at higher prices.
  • Investment by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense in ultralight vehicles could transform the U.S. economy as profoundly as the Internet and GPS.

Government can help by doing the following:

  1. Stimulating the demand for very efficient vehicles with "freebates" that are revenue- and size-neutral.
  2. Create a new million-car-a-year market through leasing to low-income customers, thereby forcing scrappage of fuel-inefficient vehicles and increasing the economic viability of the poor. Rural areas are more likely to have access to biofuels.
  3. Provide smart market and government fleet procurement incentives, such as the X-Prize.
  4. Provide heavy truck buyer information, leadership, and loan guarantees.
  5. Build vibrant 21st century industries by sharing the efforts and costs of research and development.

Research issues and areas include the following:

  1. Ultralight, ultrastrong structures, materials, and manufacturing. Three technical paths for this research include aluminum, light steel, and carbon composites, which are the lightest and strongest of the materials.
  2. Innovative policies, especially for extreme vehicles. Fuel efficiency will dry up fuel taxes; therefore, a shift of taxes to roads and miles is necessary.
  3. Allow heavy trucks to have an extra axle and encourage more two-third combination trucks, but fewer hauls.
  4. Substantially increase the use of biofuels in ultralight and hybrids vehicles.
  5. Use parked hybrids as plug-in power plants on wheels.

Other issues and questions discussed during this presentation included the following:

  • What if we stopped mandating and subsidizing sprawl?
  • What if drivers got what they paid for and paid for what they got?
  • CyberTran ( is a novel, ultralight rail with a system cost of approximately $4 per mile or $15,000 per seat. It is being tested at Alameda Point (formerly the Alameda Naval Air Station) and promises great social, political, and technical potential. (In 2002 dollars, the cost of a traditional light-rail system was about $72 per mile.)

Table Discussion: Following the presentation, participants in groups discussed their impressions, and then presented their general comments to the whole group. The following list is a sample of some of the questions and comments resulting from the discussion:

  • Has the cost of hydrogen fuel been figured in? Yes, $400 to $600 per car cheaper from a systems perspective. It is cheaper to build a hydrogen fueling station structure than a gasoline station structure.
  • What about hydrogen safety? Contrary to popular thought, hydrogen actually burns safer than traditional fuel.
  • Can you break down hydrocarbon to hydrogen for fuel? Yes, but it takes a lot of energy.
  • What about dynamics, such as stability, high wind conditions, etc.? Advanced lightweight vehicles have been aerodynamically designed to autocorrect for crosswinds. They are wire controlled.
  • What about institutional dynamics?
  • U.S. automakers do not have the financial and political strength as some foreign manufacturers, such as Honda and Toyota. Many know that business-as-usual is not the way to go and that the industry is classically overmature.
  • Is CyberTran [high-speed transportation operating on elevated tracks] a concept vehicle? Yes. Nobody is buying it because nobody is making it. CyberTran is not light-rail or transit, and consequently, no one seems interested.
  • Nonmaterial infrastructure or the "transportation governance systems," including the institutions, laws, regulations, business systems, and recent policy innovations such as deregulation, privatization, and just-in-time logistics.
  • Information capital and infrastructure.

4.0 Closing Discussion

Associate Administrator Judycki began the closing session by summarizing his impressions, where he discussed the following:

  • Partnerships are important.
  • There is an opportunity to take the agenda beyond FHWA's core mission.
  • We need to find out what is already out there and what is underway, and then identify and fill the gaps in that picture. Fortunately, FHWA has developed 60 research and technology roadmaps that represent this.
  • Eighty percent of the $30 billion per year in Highway Trust Fund spending is on infrastructure and operations, yet many of the ideas we discussed at this workshop transcend these areas.
  • Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU funding is complicated and provides for areas of advanced research, many of which are earmarked and designated.
  • Linkages must be made. The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) is the organization to accomplish this. FHWA will encourage RITA to do so.
  • A great deal will depend on both the advanced research agenda and the 2006 budget process.
  • What is the best way for us to take this to the next step?

As participants contemplated next steps, they made several comments:

  • Monique Evans, a participant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, noted that, "We should not lose sight of the fact that we are going to make recommendations to FHWA, but we should fill in the gaps and maybe have other (lower priority) ideas get picked up by other organizations." She also stated that advanced research is a good niche for FHWA.
  • Don Forbes, a representative from HNTB, stated that an obvious transportation strategy is to emphasize more walking, which leads to better health and lowers transportation demand, especially in urban areas. He stated that this should be the blueprint.
  • Jean Brittingham from CH2M Hill noted that applied research rather than advanced research provides a greater return on investment. The problem is that we generally measure benefits and costs in 18-month increments, while advanced research benefits are realized in 20 or more years.
  • Tom Maze, a representative from Iowa State University, asked whether FHWA was already partnering with other agencies and departments, especially those with larger budgets, to share advanced research costs in areas in which both have a vested interest. Associate Administrator Judycki replied that such partnerships are ongoing strategically and corporately. He provided an example of a possible partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) where FHWA would provide $1.5 million, and NSF would provide a match to establish a transportation area for joint research. The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, NSF, and participating universities would share publicity and results.
  • Victor Li, a representative from the University of Michigan, commented that advanced materials used in transportation infrastructure will have an environmental impact. He recommended teaming with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to explore this area.
  • Charles Nemmers, a participant from the University of Missouri-Columbia, noted that there was a definite dichotomy in our discussions between "things" such as infrastructure and vehicles, and "process," especially government processes at all levels (Federal, State, and local).

5.0 General Observations

The following is a list of general observations from this forum:

  • There was agreement that needed advanced research seems to fall into two basic categories. One category is research on things to do and build, such as research into new materials, including nanostructures. The second category is research into social transformation, or what may work at the personal, community, and institutional levels to shift basic attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors regarding transportation.
  • Comments were made that FHWA should do more policy research because no one else will do it. Recommendations that "advanced research" should be FHWA's niche also was noted.
  • There was strong encouragement for FHWA to seek multiparty and interagency research opportunities to leverage limited dollars.
  • FHWA was encouraged to continue to set a strategic agenda for research, rather than merely to solicit random research proposals.
  • Data collection was found to be a key area that lends itself to collaboration.
  • "Infomatics," or strategic data collection, needs serious consideration. It was noted that the Federal Aviation Administration has won a legal battle and is able to separate critical safety data from Freedom of Information laws.
  • The coming decades seem to strongly suggest that business not as usual will be the norm, and all kinds of new thinking is required. We will need new mechanisms to enable radically new transportation solutions.

Summary report prepared by Glen Hiemstra,; Judy Yahoodik, DOT/RITA Volpe Center Project Team; Ariam Asmerom, FHWA Office of Corporate Research and Technology; and Debra Elston, Director FHWA Office of Corporate Research and Technology.


Brainstorming Advanced Research Agenda Ideas--Team Results

Below are the initial results of the four working groups that produced lists of suggested advanced research topics or issues using a modified nominal group technique. These results formed the material for the final recommendations. Results are listed with the score that each item received within the working group when using the nominal group scoring method.

YELLOW TABLE: Initial Advanced Research Agenda Topics and votes

  1. How do we get into the driver psyche to warn them about imminent collisions (human-vehicle interactions)? (16)
  2. More data and cheaper, ubiquitous wireless sensors, including remote and infrared sensors, are needed. (16)
  3. Use nanotechnologies to improve current ultra-high-performance construction materials in a significant way. (13)
  4. Public education, responsible motoring public, and conservation of transportation resources. (11)
  5. What are the future performance measures of the transportation system (beyond congestion and travel time)? (8)
  6. Vehicle position sensing and alternatives, and augmentations to GPS link to data. (6)
  7. Smart structures, such as those that provide notifications about necessary maintenance. (5)
  8. Improvement of soft-side management systems. (5)
  9. Alternative power on a mass scale. (5)
  10. Use of remote sensing and letting satellites do more. (4)
  11. Use of 100-percent recycled materials used in construction. (4)
  12. New processes for making concrete more environmentally friendly. (3)
  13. How to create a culture of change with agencies. (2)
  14. Standardization of freight size and weight regulations. (2)
  15. Advanced vehicle research--transit, passenger cars, and trucks. (2)
  16. Optimization across commercial users of the highway and highway design. (2)
  17. New models for transit service and vehicles including models that make gains in energy efficiency and lead to better customer service through information technology. (1)
  18. How do we convince the public that 42,000 fatalities is a health epidemic? What is an acceptable level? (0)
  19. Vehicle-road communications interface. (0)
  20. New materials and methods to ensure long-term performance before structures are constructed (minimum inspection). (0)

BLUE TABLE: Initial Advanced Research Agenda Topics and votes

  1. Achieving significant pedestrian travel, which includes land use, choice, mba form, etc. (13)
  2. Nanostructure to infrastructure scale, linkages, long life, ultra safe, sustainable, smart. (12)
  3. Scout/track other research in other areas that is being funded by other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, etc. (12)
  4. Effects of automated vehicle systems on driver behavior. (10)
  5. Totally renewable infrastructure. (9)
  6. Development of self-healing, self-sensing materials in bulk. (8)
  7. Shaping human behavior to meet societal values, such as sustainability. (8)
  8. New transportation systems, such as ultralight mass transit. (5)
  9. Methods for making better decisions. (5)
  10. Systemwide collection of real-time traffic data using nanotechnology. (4)
  11. Integrating research (synergy). (4)
  12. Migration of "best practices" to their use and application (organization, management). (3)
  13. Elimination of testing through sensors and smart equipment. (3)
  14. Pilot biofuel plants (3)
  15. Advanced computer applications for transportation, such as supercomputers. (3)
  16. High-performance permeable pavements. (2)
  17. Market research on how people make transportation choices. (2)
  18. Methods to adopt "model city" goals to local tasks and attributions. (2)
  19. Why things did not happen that we thought would happen in the future. (1)
  20. Paperless construction (three-dimensional model to field--beyond equipments, testing, etc.) (0)
  21. Crack-free infrastructure. (0)
  22. Understand effects of breakthrough automotive technology that may remove capacity banned (e.g., sprawl). (0)
  23. Embedded energy in infrastructure materials.
  24. Methods to achieve harmony between the built and natural environments.
  25. What will people accept regarding vehicle controls?
  26. Dynamic and "smart" pavement markings.
  27. Vehicles with voluntary speed controls.
  28. Dynamics of lightweight passenger cars on run-off-the-road (ROR) crashes (impact, rollover).
  29. Zero-fatality "jersey" barriers.
  30. New business models to deliver innovative services.
  31. Partnering to identify improvements in operation and emissions.
  32. Estimated effect of automated lane departure systems on ROR crashes.

GREEN TABLE: Initial Advanced Research Agenda Topics and votes

  1. Transportation's effect on public health. (16)
  2. Land use and transportation interactions, with a focus on accessibility. (13).
  3. Alternative to the fuel tax. (12)
  4. Social/political issues, concerns, and barriers that affect the implementation of breakthrough ideas. (10)
  5. Vehicle-infrastructure systems to improve safety. (8)
  6. Better materials using nanotechnology. (7)
  7. Workforce demographics and required future skills. (7)
  8. Personal transportation for all that is affordable, convenient, safe, efficient, and attractive, in both rural and urban areas. (5)
  9. Completely wireless, intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies. (3)
  10. Use of satellite imagery to operate real-time traffic control throughout cities. (3)
  11. Automated highways and smart car interactions. (3)
  12. Enhanced night/poor weather vision (goggle/head-up displays). (3)
  13. Real-time multimodal travel information. (3)
  14. Any fuel, low-emission internal combustion engine. (3)
  15. Better use recycling of vehicles and infrastructure. (2)
  16. Carbon fiber research for improved vehicles. (2)
  17. Alternative urban freight delivery systems. (2)
  18. Infrastructure (materials and design). (2)
  19. Pedestrian issues in urban areas. (2)
  20. Vertical takeoff and landing technology. (1)
  21. Embedded sensors for collection of condition and other data. (1)
  22. Real-time driver and vehicle performance. (1)
  23. Improved batteries. (0)
  24. Methods to create seamless multimodal links. (0)
  25. Scanning and security of freight. (0)
  26. Universal real-time ride sharing. (0)
  27. Roadside safety devices that are compatible with a changing vehicle fleet. (0)
  28. Improved sign sheeting to enhance visibility and durability. (0)

RED TABLE Advanced Research Agenda Topics and votes

  1. Innovate pricing similar to pollution credits and the market for the full costing of the transportation cost of ownership (public and private). (15)
  2. Governance structures, including public and private sector rules. (10)
  3. Extreme materials and methods of construction. (9)
  4. Multimodal, long-distance personal travel, including who provides it and how. (8)
  5. Changes in people and retail, including the alternative strategies to moving goods. (7)
  6. Assess performance of systems on time, operation flow, and health. (6)
  7. National market research, marketing plan. (6)
  8. A look at what can be done to improve rural road safety. Is more money, technology, design, and public education needed? (5)
  9. System network and service needs that transportation must provide at the regional level. (5)
  10. Understand transportation and land use policy. (4)
  11. Serving older people. (4)
  12. Driver automation interface ratio: Human factors versus what we automate. (3)
  13. Embedded road sensors and the feedback to drivers for safety corrections. (3)
  14. Changing the mindset of the transportation community, and customers versus partners. (3)
  15. Greening transportation and avoiding imprints in location design and operations. (2)
  16. Ways to reduce transportation demand. (1)
  17. Maintenance-free roads and long-lasting pavements. (0)
  18. Recycled agriculture products in pavement design to improve sustainability. (0)
  19. Impacting obesity through transportation choices. (0)
  20. Reexamine driver requirements. (0)
  21. Public expectations versus minimal engineering/safety standards, such as the deicing of roads and its impacts on the environment. (0)
  22. Incentives to lighten the load (e.g., carbon structures). (0)
Last updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2021