The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is to explore the possibilities artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies could revolutionise transportation in the US.
In a broad agency announcement (BAA), the organization is seeking to award contracts to relevant research groups to investigate both of these emerging technologies as well as incorporating the use of disused plastic in asphalt cement.
Providing security and privacy of data transactions on peer-to-peer networks, blockchain is recognised for being the technology that underpins Bitcoin. However, its security benefits to the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) industry and to freight logistics are increasingly being understood.
The FHWA EAR Program is also seeking demonstration of AI in new areas of importance to highway transportation that could include and are not limited to integrating traditional and non-traditional highway data to better explain and predict system performance, significantly increasing the ability to process data by reducing or eliminating the need for manual data pre-processing and the need for hard-to-find expertise, improving sensor signal data to assess current conditions of pavements or structures, or providing decision support to assist experts in the design, operations, or management of highway systems.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2015, approximately 34.5M tons of plastics are disposed each year. Of this total, 3.14M tons were recycled, 5.35M tons were incinerated, and the remaining 26.01M tons of plastics are landfilled.
Given the ubiquity of asphalt pavements nationwide, there exists an opportunity for significant reductions in landfilled plastics by incorporating these materials into asphalt mixtures.
The FHWA said, “The FHWA is soliciting for proposals under its EAR Program for research projects that could lead to transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the US.
“This program supports scientific investigations and studies that advance the current knowledge and state-of-the-art in the sciences and technologies employed in the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and management of the nation’s highways.
“Strategically, this research will enable and expedite the development of revolutionary approaches, methodologies, and breakthroughs required to drive innovation and greatly improve the efficiency of highway transportation.”
Interested groups are invited to submit any questions they have regarding the project by 18 February, and research proposals are due by 20 March.