Federal Highway Administration seeks ‘revolutionary’ tech for highway engineering

Areas of interest include blockchain and artificial intelligence.
highway, transportation, cars, connected vehicles, smart vehicles
(Getty Images)

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is planning a call for research proposals that could bring about “transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances” in highway engineering.

The announcement is part of FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program, which supports advances in the science and technology of America’s roads. EAR has existed in some form since 1991.

The agency is specifically looking to fund research into three topic areas — blockchain, artificial intelligence and the inclusion of recycled plastics into asphalt.

On blockchain, the agency is interesting in applications of the technology that could help to secure vehicle-to-vehicle communication of connected vehicles, provide data for routing and timing of freight, allow for dynamic highway pricing and more.


“Blockchain technology also has the potential to transform the connected and automated vehicle industry or freight logistics providing a platform to share a variety of information from the infrastructure and vehicles in a secure manner,” the announcement reads.

With artificial intelligence, EAR is looking to fund projects that will explore the application of the technology to some of FHWA’s predictive needs — using sensor data to assess and predict the condition of pavements, for example.

And finally, the agency is interested in using some of the roughly 34 million tons of plastic thrown away each year in the asphalt created to pave the country’s roads. The addition of plastic promises to lower the cost and improve the stability of asphalt, but more research is needed.

“Use of waste plastic in asphalt has garnered the attention of leaders in public transportation policy, the plastics industry, the chemicals industry, and the pavement industry,” FHWA’s announcement reads. “This renewed interest by a broad cross-section of plastics and highway stakeholders, rather than individual parties, presents potential to stimulate a new breakthrough related to compatibilization of waste plastic and asphalt cement.”

The Department of Transportation, of which FHWA is a component agency, has previously invested in automation technologies, blockchain and more through its Small Business Innovation Research program.


For this current opportunity, the official Broad Agency Announcement is expected Jan. 10.

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