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Meeting the Challenge: Exploratory Advanced Research

Unique among FHWA's research programs, the Exploratory Advanced Research Program is producing research today that will address tomorrow's transportation challenges and will make the Nation's highways and intermodal systems more durable, efficient, environmentally sound, productive, and safe. Unlike many other areas within FHWA that focus on more established technologies, the Exploratory Advanced Research Program supports early-stage research that is crosscutting, high risk, and that in the long term has high potential for revolutionary breakthroughs.

Collaboration with stakeholders from multiple disciplines inside and outside transportation fosters opportunities for innovative research solutions. The Exploratory Advanced Research Program encourages the transition of innovations from early-stage research to applied research, such as facilitating handoff activities to ensure eventual commercialization. The program also demonstrates and communicates the value of research through targeted efforts.

Many of FHWA's research programs focus on technologies that have existing market potential and can be easily transferred to industry for commercialization. These market-ready technologies are a key part of the research life cycle, which describes movement over time from basic to applied research, field testing, implementation, deployment, and, finally, assessment of impacts.

Producing market-ready technologies is important because a key measure of success depends on stakeholders' ability to access and accept new technologies on a national scale. However, there is also a need for FHWA to conduct research in cutting-edge or emerging technologies that are far from being market ready, but have the potential to make transformational improvements to the Nation's transportation system. Because it defines and anticipates future transportation needs while exploring potential solutions, the Exploratory Advanced Research Program is a critical piece of the research life cycle.

The Exploratory Advanced Research Program supports FHWA's priorities and assists policy makers, the research community, and transportation agencies with addressing critical knowledge gaps and accelerating innovation and technology deployment.

Objective 1: Collaborate with Stakeholders to Promote and Foster Creative and Innovative Thinking


  • Seek crosscutting research on topics that go beyond those typically associated with transportation to identify possible linkages or insights that would improve surface transportation systems or benefit users of these systems.
  • Identify and investigate research on topics that anticipates questions and future needs in the transportation sector.
  • Identify potential researchers who are capable of conducting exploratory advanced research and with whom the Exploratory Advanced Research Program can build partnerships.

Showcase Activities

  • Nanoscale Research Workshop
  • Assistive Technology Workshop
  • Behavioral Economics Approach to Highway Pricing

 Visit the Objective 1: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 2: Promote, Fund, and Enable High-Risk Research for Revolutionary Breakthroughs


  • Identify and fund promising Exploratory Advanced Research proposals through a merit review, collaboration with outside experts, and coordination with internal leadership.
  • Collaborate with outside experts at each stage of the research process to ensure the quality of research.

Showcase Activities

  • Freeway Merge Assistance
  • Real-Time Bridge Monitoring Nanosensor Technology
  • Demonstrating the Benefits of High-Volume Fly Ash in New Concrete Mixtures
  • Evaluating the Potential of Nanomaterials to Reduce Concrete Cracking

 Visit the Objective 2: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 3: Demonstrate and Communicate the Value and Impact of Exploratory Advanced Research


  • Identify promising Exploratory Advanced Research Program-sponsored projects that lead to continued, high-impact applied research.
  • Fund and support handoff activities when needed to ensure successful continuation of high-impact applied research, product development, and adoption by industry.
  • Identify, promote, and encourage funding opportunities available from other sources (e.g., Federal, State, or private sector) that will support applied research based on results from the projects sponsored by the Exploratory Advanced Research Program.
  • Explore and promote how secondary research products resulting from projects funded by the Exploratory Advanced Research Program could improve the outcomes of ongoing and future projects.

Showcase Activities

  • Building on Exploratory Advanced Research Results
  • Facilitating the Use of New Methods for Modeling and Simulating Traffic and Driver Behavior
  • Lane-Level Positioning and Navigation Workshop

 Visit the Objective 3: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Updated: Monday, August 6, 2018