The Department of Transportation released its Five-Year Research, Development, and Technology plan, which shows that the operating administrations under the DOT umbrella have their own plans.
The Operating Administrations all follow the FAST Act, which requires the administrations to specify how they’ll use research findings to improve efficiency. DOT is working to incorporate the technology deployment process into the policies that the FAST Act mandates. However, the Operating Administrations can decide how to use these practices to best serve the specific technologies that they work with.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) uses the Every Day Counts Initiative (EDC), which partners with the states to deploy successful but under-utilized technologies to increase roadway safety and reduce traffic. The initiative also works to reach out to technology companies and promote new ideas that are working.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses its Acquisition Management System to analyze technologies’ potential shortfalls, new operational concepts, and alternative solutions for systems already in use. Companies can choose to develop a prototype or demonstration before they commit to going through the acquisition system. This gives businesses enough time to put forth their best product for consideration. These technologies could help to maintain airport infrastructure, increase safety, and reduce environmental impacts on nearby neighborhoods.
The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Office of Research evaluates the feasibility of technologies by training practitioners, involving industry, testing and demonstrating, partnering with other administrations, developing standards, deploying the product, and marketing through social networks.
The FTA uses 85 percent of its research budget to allow companies to demonstrate their products in real-world situations to see if the technology is beneficial to transit workers or commuters. The FTA presents its research using a consistent format and plans to increase its use of social networking and outreach, including Facebook posts, online dialogues, and podcasts.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Transportation Technology Center provides 50 miles of test track for research and development of new technologies that would improve the railroad system. The FRA builds technology to enforce railroad regulations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in charge of automated vehicle performance guidelines, studying crash prevention technology, and vehicle cybersecurity standards. NHTSA uses a five-star rating system, available to the public, to test each car’s safety level and the effectiveness of its technology.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) uses the Pipeline Safety R&D program to partner with technology companies for demonstration in the field. However, the commercialization success rate of these products is between 20 percent and 30 percent.
The Hazardous Material Safety R&D program, which also works under PHSMA, has limited examples of successful technology deployment because the program is still young, according to the report.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Research and Technology Program studies driver behavior, carrier operations, and technology applications. The program has studied the amount of rest that drivers need, automated technologies, and alternative fuel methods. The program partners with states and research institutions, tests products in the field, trains officials, and drafts recommendations for products.
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) works mostly with industry partners to conduct research and deploy technologies. Since it’s mainly a promotional agency, it has limited regulatory power, and it has limited funding.
DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) focuses on interoperability of modern technology, by using system architectures, standards, and certification. The ITS Professional Capacity Building (PCB) Program is responsible for training individuals on new ITS technologies.
DOT relies on the FAST Act to ensure each administration is on the same page for technology research. The agency’s five-year plan requires the administrations to follow the FAST Act while evaluating the way their own administrations research strategies work.