Transportation Department Looks to AI to Help Modernize Highways

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The Department of Transportation is soliciting applicants to integrate artificial intelligence and environmental analytics into highway infrastructure.

As part of Department of Transportation’s plans to modernize the U.S.’s highway infrastructure, the agency issued a new contract opportunity seeking artificial intelligence and data analytics-based solutions.  

A program under the agency's Federal Highway Administration called for proposals featuring artificial intelligence technology to improve the current national highway design system. The technology developed within this contract will impact the planning, construction and maintenance of the nation’s highways.

A spokesperson for the FHWA informed Nextgov the projects’ goal is to successfully transform highway transportation with AI technology, and that, following the projects’ individual outcomes, officials will decide how to implement it across the transportation sector. 

“With the growing number of maturing and commercial applications, there still is a need for early state research to support emerging advances in AI that can solve even more complex questions in highway transportation,” the RFI notes. 

Some of the issues Transportation wants to have AI tackle include safety patterns in underserved communities, pedestrian safety and environment mapping, bridge capacity for heavier vehicles and individual vehicle smart parking. 

The program also requested new data analytics to better understand the environmental impact of highway infrastructure in regards to climate change. 

One project component aims to quantify and predict the impact of carbon emissions generated from highway infrastructure to be used in more precise environmental impact statements. The second component asks applicants to investigate which materials for highway construction—such as asphalt, cement and steel—provide lower levels of carbon emissions. 

The Transportation contract opportunity falls under the Biden administration’s objectives to update and fortify the U.S.’s infrastructure. A key pillar in President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is repairing highways, roads and bridge systems across the U.S. with an emphasis on safety, climate resilience and low-carbon technologies. 

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