ITS Exploratory Research

The ITS Program recognizes that technology evolves rapidly and that the community is filled with new, creative ideas for approaches to connectivity, safety, mobility, and environmental mitigation. While the programs of research described in this document will lead to solid benefits, these are not the only areas of research with potential. The ITS Exploratory Research program is intended to provide an avenue to solicit creative ideas for new technology options that are deserving of further attention and that further the ITS Strategic Research Plan goals for the next five years.

Tech Scan Reports: Connected Vehicle Insights


The ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) is leading a research project focused on connected vehicles, as part of a multimodal research program. The Technology Scan and Assessment project examines how to use the potentially transformative capabilities of next generation wireless and other technologies to enhance the safety, mobility and environmental sustainability of the surface transportation system. This research project analyzes technology options and trends that might enable successful ITS and Connected Vehicle deployment.

Designed to explore technology outside of mainstream transportation research, the Technology Scan and Assessment project features two types of research reports. The Technology Scan focuses on long range, global and cross-cutting technologies. The Technology Assessment is specific to the U.S DOT’s plans for connected vehicle research, and highlights particular global technical risks such as security or uncertainties such as “game-changing” scenarios where a potential technological breakthrough or social or economic changes may tilt the playing field to favor one technology over another. Both reports are designed to explore technologies outside of mainstream transportation research, the Technology Scan and Assessment project examines technologies where the inclusion of said technology can tilt the industry and the future of connected vehicles to favor one technology over another.

Identifying Cross-Cutting Technologies and Identifying Their Impact

The Technology Scan and Assessment project is designed to search the information technology, telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors to:

  • Identify new enabling or converging technologies that may influence specific trade-offs that occur along the path of research and development, prototyping, testing, and model implementation and commercialization;
  • Facilitate discussion among the engineering community and decision-makers to enable continued progress in technical research.

The research plan is to:

  • Cover technologies over three time horizons - science base (10 to 30 years perspective), emerging technologies (5 to 10 years), and pacing technologies (3 to 5 years applied on trial basis) in the information technology, telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors.
  • Focus on technologies centered on efficient data and information flow, from acquisition (sensors) and dissemination (wireless), to processing (computing) and management (decision support) systems.

Technology Scan and Assessment Research Outcomes

The project features two types of research reports:

  • The Technology Scan includes a number of Technical Insight reports focused on long range, global and cross-cutting technologies that looks beyond the transportation industry to identify if the application of that technology would have a positive impact to transportation;
  • The Technology Assessment is specific to the U.S DOT’s plans for connected vehicle research, and highlights particular national and global technical risks. The assessment identifies as best as possible “game-changing” scenarios where a potential technological breakthrough or social or economic change(s) may tilt the playing field to favor one technology over another.

Inventory of New Systems Potenially Interfacing with the Connected Vehicle

The goals of the Technology Scan and Assessment are to:

  • Inform and enrich discussion about technology options among members of the engineering community interested in connected vehicle research.
  • Encourage the ITS community to evaluate technology opportunities several years ahead, rather than basing assumptions on past developments or potential misconceptions regarding future trends.
  • Establish, validate or revise key assumptions in ITS JPO research and development programs regarding scalability, security, or safety of particular technologies.
  • Inventory new technology-enabled systems that may need to interface with future connected vehicle core systems utilizing Vehicle-to-Vehicle/Vehicle-to-Infrastructure technology.
  • Encourage researchers and technologists from other applied engineering fields to invest in research in areas of interest to USDOT, such as mobile ad-hoc wireless systems, robotics, and computing that overlap with vehicle safety, security and communications. Highlight opportunities for these researchers and technologists to engage with USDOT through cooperative agreements.

Technology Scan reports analyze such long range technology trends in the following areas:

Sensing Technologies and Machine Perception

  • Object detection, ranging, positioning, and classification technologies and techniques
  • Active sensing systems such as Radar, Ultrasonic and LIDAR, as well as computer vision and satellite navigation
  • Competitive and cooperative sensor fusion techniques to enhance the performance an integrity of sensing
  • Analysis of impact to vehicle collision avoidance, driving automation and active traffic management

Wireless Access Networking and Broadband

  • Integration of wide-area, local-area, "vehicle-area" and personal area architectures and multiple radio access technologies.
  • Deployment of small cells, WiFi, cognitive radio, and other new radio access technologies
  • Impact of 4G network "application awareness" to future vehicle services and intelligent traffic operations

Service-Oriented Computing, Data Warehousing and Data Mining

  • Data warehousing of sensing data from growing and evolving Machine-to-Machine (M2M) networks
  • Service-oriented computing architectures with service advertisement, data abstraction and standards
  • Network accessible "cloud-based" computing resources, virtualization and computing-on-demand
  • Impact of data mining to glean insights from new structured data in transportation systems

Predictive Analytics and Adaptive Services

  • Application of new techniques to source, analyze, annotate, aggregate, adapt, structure and summarize previously unstructured data generated across users and functions
  • Predictive analytics applying new insights to disparate data sources in real-time across geographies and functions
  • Benefits of predictive and adaptive services in transportation and new roles and responsibilities of road users or operators.

The Technology Assessment highlights particular risks or uncertainties that are broadly understood to impact a number of sectors, not just transportation which include:


  • Global innovations in design of secure computing systems and risk management practices to address unique challenges in securing safety-critical systems.

Energy and the Environment

  • Global innovation in the development of utility “smart grid” and electric vehicle powertrains and support systems, and how they may leverage to improve vehicle safety, mobility and environmental sustainability.


  • Innovation in robotics and computing that may make possible semi- or fully-autonomous vehicles on highways. Issues yet to be addressed such as safety certification, driver responsibility, product liability, data ownership and the role of Connected Vehicle.

Technology Scan Reports and Webinars

Each Report and webinar identify and carefully define a specific category of new technologies that may have a potential impact on transportation. Each report examines and evaluates

  • A given technology’s (or technologies) technical merit and evolution, but also search for constraints or compromises that may reduce capability, affordability, adaptability, economies of scale and scope, or market demand.
  • Several ancillary technologies, and competitive and complementary elements and nascent development of industry value chains that can encourage a given technology’s widespread application.
  • Centers of research excellence in the government, academia and industry, and engage subject matter experts to speculate on a given technology’s potency, desirability, and timing
  • The perspectives of respected subject matter experts, provided through free webinars, enabling transportation engineers and researchers to engage interactively at a much deeper technical level.




To learn more about this research, contact:

Walton Fehr
Program Manager, Systems Engineering
ITS Joint Program Office
Research and Innovative Technology Administration
(202) 366-0278

Tim Schmidt
Chief Technology Officer
Office of the Secretary of Transportation


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