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Keynote: Deputy Assistant Secretary Hampshire on Update on Current and Planned USDOT Automation Research- ARTS 22

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Hello everyone, thank you all for having me here. I’m Dr. Robert Hampshire, I’m the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and Chief Science Officer at USDOT. Welcome to this plenary session. 

I am pleased to be able to provide a bit of context from the DOT perspective, more specifically from my office, and the work that we’re doing across the modes as well as highlight some specific activities that relate to automation and automation research. ARTS is more than a cross section of stakeholders—it’s an opportunity for those involved in automation to consider and engage in examining critical challenges and opportunities. The last few years have seen some major changes in the way we live and work and how we envision the future of transportation.

One of the lessons to come out of our collective experience is that now more than ever we need research to help us navigate a period of tremendous change. The role of USDOT and my office, is to ensure our nation has the safest, most equitable, reliable, and modern transportation system in the world. That requires an inclusive engagement process, thoughtful strategic planning, and an impacts-oriented model for advancing equity through programs, policies, funding strategies and regulatory actions. I want to talk about the strategic planning first—the “how we get there,” or the path forward. 

Just as if you were planning a trip, you would first need to look at the logistics of how you get to your destination and map it out. Within the last year the Administration passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The BIL is once-in-a-generation opportunity by which we are investing to help communities across America to improve their infrastructure. Roads and rail, trains and transit, ports and airports, internet, water pipes. It’s the biggest effort of this kind in the better part of a century.  
The BIL provides us with additional tools and resources that allow for coordinated action-not just within DOT but across the whole of government. Coinciding with the BIL, over the last year or so under the leadership of Secretary Buttigieg, DOT developed some larger strategic and innovation goals to really reframe how we think about the future of transportation. 

The Department prioritized specific areas: Safety; Economic Strength and Global Competitiveness; Equity; Climate and Sustainability; Transformation and Innovation

The strategic plan sets the stage to structure our efforts and our innovation principles then are the blueprint for how those efforts serve key policy priorities. All of these are interconnected and serve to ensure that we’re not only working toward common objectives, but also taking a holistic approach to transportation. A part of this is recognizing that some of these things can be achieved through transformative research. We want to not just be innovative for innovation’s sake but create programs that will drive real transformation.

These include ensuring that innovation:

  • Serve key policy priorities, like creating economic opportunity, advancing equitable access to transportation, and helping to confront the climate crisis. 
  • Help America win the 21st century - by playing a meaningful role in future-proofing infrastructure, enabling adaptability and resilience, and helping communities and public sector partners to bring legacy systems into the digital age. 
  • Support workers by empowering them and expanding access to skills, training and ensuring they have a seat at the table in shaping innovation.
  • Allows for experimentation and learns from setbacks, because these are indispensable parts of the scientific method that underpins all invention and discovery. 
  • Provide opportunities to collaborate by embracing public-private partnerships that reduce risk, foster purpose-driven innovation and protect the interests of the public, workers, and communities with an outcomes-based approach that is technology neutral; and, 
  • Be flexible and adapt as technology changes. Because we can’t prepare for an evolving future with policy that only makes sense under present or past conditions.  
  • Strive to identify opportunities for interoperability among innovations and foster cross-modal integration, and support technologies that further the Department’s policy goals. 

In other words, part of what we do on a larger scale, is figure out ways that communities across the country, can become better positioned to take advantage of the future, and support communities to make the best modernization investments.

Having given some framework, I want to just touch on some of the multi-modal programs and activities related to automation. This is not all inclusive of course and we will be rolling out additional programs in conjunction with the BIL.

Within OST-R:

  • Advanced Research Projects Agency–Infrastructure (ARPA-I). This is on the immediate horizon, and you will hear more about it over the coming weeks. If you are familiar with ARPA-E or DARPA, ARPA-I is modeled after those programs and I believe will offer a major opportunity to catalyze the development of innovative technologies, systems, and capabilities and really focus on new and novel approaches.
  • University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program. The UTC program and the research that has come from it, have played a necessary and vital role in advancing state of the art transportation research and technology. The UTC program, as some or most of you know, works through a consortium of schools to advance technology and expertise across transportation disciplines through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches. Just a few weeks ago we opened the latest UTC grant competition. We had a record high number of applications with about a month left until the application deadline.  
  • Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence (HASS COE) which is a newer office centered on automation and designed specifically to become a center of expertise and knowledge, a resource for all modes for transportation automation, facilitate communication and collaboration among various stakeholders to help safely integrate the responsible mass deployment of automation across the transportation ecosystem.
  • Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grant Program. SMART will fund demo projects focused on advanced smart city or community technologies and systems. There’s a webinar next week—July 28th that will get into greater detail and get you prepared for SMART. 

Within the modes there are also large-scale programs and activities. A few highlights include:

  • Cooperative Driving Automation (CDA) Freight, a joint effort from Federal Highways, Maritime Administration (MARAD), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), and Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) that explores CDA applications to commercial vehicles and port operations.
  • NHTSA, has several projects in the works related to automation and automated vehicles especially with regards to safety, coming on the heels of both the BIL and their latest crash and fatality numbers, which showed an unacceptable uptick in fatal crashes.
  • ADAS Crash Safety Analyses, which Federal Motor Carriers (FMCSA) just awarded the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) a 48-month research project to develop empirical CMV ADAS safety effectiveness data. FMCSA also has several key automation projects this year along with ongoing deployment grants.
  • Federal Transit Administration has multiple grants and projects including Integrated and Innovative Mobility projects. FTA is also developing STAR Plan 2.0 which currently has an open Request for Information until August 1. 

Again, these are just a few examples of ongoing work. We have a whole ecosystem of programs for you to look forward to and engage with. I highly encourage you to keep an eye out this week and in the coming weeks for more. 

DOT has been a world leader in accessible transportation and has been conducting foundational research to support an increase in independent mobility of all travelers through automation and other advanced and emerging technologies. But honestly, none of that will reach its full potential unless we take the opportunity to look at integrated, technical solutions to pressing transportation issues—which means engaging ALL of you to build a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable transportation system.

We all have a stake and a vested interest in helping to build a system that pushes the boundaries of how we imagine transportation to achieve our shared safety, equity, climate, and economic development goals, and reflects the kind of innovative and transformative ideas this nation needs. 

Again, thank you for having me here. Please do not hesitate to connect with our office and explore upcoming opportunities. 


Presentation slides are available here