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Exploratory Advanced Research Program

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Research on the Future

Below are resources for learning more about trends that may impact the transportation industry and, thus, the industry's research needs over the next generation categorized under three areas


Related Links

Back-casting – looking at key historical developments—can be an important element of forecasting. Several reports summarize past breakthroughs in highway research [More]

Research Programs and Institutes

  • National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-83, Long Range Strategic Issues facing the Highway Industry – The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognizes that research can help ensure that transportation practitioners are equipped to deal with future challenges facing the industry over the next 30 to 40 years. [More].

    The projects funded under NCHRP 20-83 include different approaches for considering the future over a 30 to 40 year horizon.  A December 2010 Workshop provided the first glimpse of the different approaches. [More]

  • The United Kingdom (UK) Forsight Programme and Horizon Scanning Centre, use science based methods to provide visions of the future to identify potential risks and opportunities in relation to science and technology. The Foresight Programme and Horizon Scanning Centre are based in the Government Office for Science based within the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. [More]

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) funded an International Futures Programme, "Global Infrastructure Needs: Prospects and Implications for Public and Private Actors," that brought together experts from the public and private sector to take stock of the long-term opportunities and challenges facing infrastructures worldwide. [More]

  • The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report, "The Future of the Internet III" on potential changes from the Internet in 2020. [More]

  • The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent, nonprofit research group located in Palo Alto, CA that seeks to identify emerging trends [More]

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Smart Cities Group in the MIT Media Lab are envisioning future forms of mobility and communication. [More]

  • The London School of Economics and the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft of Der Deutschen Bank sponsored the Urban Age Project, a six-year sequence of international conferences held in cities across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe between 2005 and 2010. The Urban Age Project seeks to identify the trends and relationships between concrete investment, design and building, and the economic, environmental, social, political and cultural processes that shape city life. [More]

  • The New Media Consortium supports the Horizon Project, which looks at impacts of emerging technology on education. [More]


Related Research Reports

  • The Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (created under SAFETEA-LU Section 1909) looked at system needs for up to a 50-year time horizon including "maximum technology" as one of five future scenarios. While the Commission found that technology alone will not meet future system needs, "… policies designed to foster research and innovation may be a critical component of a comprehensive long-term transportation vision." [more]

  • The Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL) and European Commission (EC) initiated the New Road Construction Concepts (NR2C) project to generate future-oriented initiatives for road research. The report, "New Road Construction Concepts: Vision 2040" discussed general trends such as shortages of clean environment, energy, land along with increased demand for mobility (individually and in total) more recreational travel and auto travel, more flexible work patterns, telecommuting and remote work, and the integration of communication in daily activities, then developed three scenarios based on differing policy structures. [More]

  • In July 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft scenarios relating land use and climate change in the continental U.S. EPA applied four scenarios and a base case taken from a Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (2000) that developed global projections through 2100 along two axes, global-regional and economic-environmental, resulting in different population growth and settlement patterns. [More]

  • In 2006, the New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NYSMPOs), the FHWA Office of Planning, and the USDOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center supported a colloquy on the transformation of travel from trends in demographics, public policy, land use, technology, and economics. [More]

  • In 2006, the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services conducted scenario planning through 2030 to assess future needs for highway reality. [More]

  • In the September 2007 issues of the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Raymond E. Levitt wrote an article titled "CEM Research for the Next 50 Year: Maximizing Economic, Environmental, and Societal Value of the Built Environment" [More]

  • In the September 2006 issues of World Transportation Policy and Practice, Hartmut H. Topp from the Institute for Mobility and Transport at Kaiserslautern University of Technology wrote on the "Trends, innovative course settings, and levers for mobility and transportation Seen from the Year 2030." His article covered potential changes in energy, mobility, urban development, life styles, and demographics. [More]

  • In 2006, Bill Sharpe and Tony Hodgson prepared a report, “Intelligent Infrastructure Futures, Technology Forward Look, Towards a Cyber-Urban Ecology” for the U.K. Foresight Programme. [More]

  • In 2002, Robert L. Olson, Research Director for Institute for Alternative Futures wrote a paper, “Trends Shaping Transportation’s Future.” [More]


Popular Articles

  • Mitchell Joachim from Columbia University wrote in Wired Magazine about "Redesign Cities from Scratch" on September 22, 2008. The article describes new urban forms and types of transport in cities 50, 100 and more years hence. [More]

  • Karrie Jacobs wrote in the January 2009 issue of Metropolis magazine an article titled "Rethinking the Interstate." The article suggests new uses for public right-of-way designed for auto travel. [More]


Exploratory Advanced Research Program

Research Highlights


Ear Program Research Results - Updated Through 2014,(FHWA-HRT-15-024)- December 2014

Multimedia Downloads

Investigating Advanced Traffic Signal Control, (N/A)- April 2011

Project Fact Sheets

Assistive Technologies for Visually Impaired Persons,(FHWA-HRT-15-040)- February 2015

Reference Scans

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Applications for Highway Transportation,(FHWA-HRT-14-037)- November 2013


National Multimodal Freight Analysis Framework Research Workshop,(FHWA-HRT-14-054)- January 2015

Scanning and Convening Activities Fact Sheets

Understanding Material Durability - Workshop Examines Aging of Composite Materials,(FHWA-HRT-14-068)- June 2014


Technological Innovations in Transportation for People with Disabilities: Workshop Executive Summary(FHWA-HRT-11-042)- September 2011

Web Articles

Emission Reductions, Fuel Savings Demonstrated at Turner-Fairbank ()-

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