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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-18-027    Date:  January 2018
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-18-027
Date: January 2018


Exploratory Advanced Research Program

FHWA White Paper On Mobile Ad Hoc Networks

Executive Summary

Advanced next generation communications technologies offer the potential to greatly improve safety, system efficiency, and mobility across our Nation’s roadways. These new technologies and processes can address both traditionally difficult as well as entirely new challenges facing the transportation sector by expanding on available solutions, offering more sophisticated approaches, and creating new opportunities. This white paper explores Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs): a unique next-generation technology that can serve as a supplement or an alternative to traditional physical infrastructure-based wireless communications. MANETs are fluid, movable wireless networks that can form independently on an as-needed basis and do not require any fixed networking infrastructure to operate, as seen in figure 1 below. As connectivity and communication become more vital to transportation needs, there is a tremendous opportunity for the use of MANETs in this field.

An illustration showing an ad hoc wireless network of mobile devices. Black squares represent the mobile devices. Circles around eight of the devices represent their effective range. Solid lines indicate communications between the devices, and a dashed line between two devices that are farther apart shows a weak signal. One device has no circle around it and no lines reaching it because it is outside the network's reach.
Source: FHWA
Figure 1. Illustration. Next-generation wireless communication environment: Non-fixed infrastructure MANET consisting of computers.


The goal of this white paper is to lay the groundwork for discussing a potential Government role in facilitating the development and application of MANETs in the surface transportation sector. It begins by describing the current state of practice for MANETs and their current use in transportation applications. The paper also sets out to describe potential benefits and challenges associated with MANETs and offers potential transportation use-cases. This white paper makes two key assumptions about MANETs and the next generation communications technologies that support them:

There are many potential use-cases for MANETs to justify further research into wider, transportation-based applications. In an effort to catalyze and shape discussions about the potential Government role of MANET applications in transportation, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), during the summer and fall of 2017, supported a series of conversations and workshops with stakeholders across Federal, State, and local Governments. With this white paper and follow-up discussions, FHWA aims to provide a background on how MANETs work and how they can potentially address the transportation needs of tomorrow.



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