The National Academies

NCHRP 08-127 [Active]

Emerging Issues: Impact of New Disruptive Technologies on the Performance of DOTs

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Sam Van Hecke
Effective Date: 9/1/2020
Completion Date: 8/1/2022


The arrival of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the rapid development and fusion of multiple disruptive and innovative technologies are changing the behavior and the expectations of customers and stakeholders—not only in the United States, but all over the world.  The deployment of these technologies—artificial intelligence, big data and digitization, the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless technologies (5G/6G), connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies, on-demand ride sharing services, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), the sharing economy, and others—is bringing a revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, relate to one another, and do business.  In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation is moving at a pace at which governmental entities are not readily prepared.


Mobility is also transforming rapidly as new technologies disrupt traditional ways people and goods move throughout the transportation systems.  The rapid deployment of mobile internet is upending the traditional approaches with new customer-centric business models based on the sharing economy such as car hailing, bike sharing, scooter sharing, time sharing, customized shuttle bus, parking sharing, etc.  While the new business models bring more conveniences and efficiencies to the users and to the national and local economies, they are also creating new challenges and needs that state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies must grapple with as decision-makers. As technology previously foreign to transportation rapidly affects traditional ways of doing business, organizational  structure and performance is affected across all modes and aspects of transportation.  Institutional processes or procedures may be retooled or adjusted to accommodate updated or more effective methods to improve performance outcomes.  These processes or procedures are necessary to help those agencies struggling to define meaningful performance measures, such as managing data collection, maintaining accountability, and streamlining reporting.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide for state DOTs and other transportation planning agencies to understand, predict, plan for, and adapt to the potential impacts of emerging disruptive technologies.  In preparing this guide, the research should identify issues, effects, and opportunities at the intersection of disruptive transportation technologies and organizational performance for senior managers at state DOTs and other transportation planning agencies; and it should include but not be limited to the following components:

·       Categories of technology disruptors, such as big data, expanding digitization, vehicle and infrastructure technologies, mobility as a service, the sharing economy, mobility of people and goods, alternative travel modes, and communication technologies;

·       New business opportunities or partnerships and collaboration models involving the private and public sectors, as well as impacts on how agencies execute planning and prioritize investments, implement, maintain, manage and operate the transportation system;

·       Roles and responsibilities of  federal, state, regional, and local agencies in evaluating, approving, regulating, enforcing, and managing new ways of moving people and goods; and

·       Improving overall customer service, including effects on the transportation system’s ability to provide improved access and mobility for all users.

The target audience for this research is practitioners as well as decision-makers at state DOTs and their transportation partner organizations. 


Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective.  Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including an indication of how proposed research will make use of and build on current requirements and practices.  Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objective, including prioritizing critical issues.  The research plan should also include a review of other related studies in general and NCHRP research studies in particular. 

The research plan should (1) include a kick-off web conference to review the amplified work plan with the NCHRP project panel, convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address how the proposer intends to satisfy the project objectives; (3) be divided logically into two phases encompassing specific detailed tasks for each phase that are necessary to fulfill the research objective, including appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; and (4) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment on, and approve milestone deliverables.  The resulting guide should address methods, procedures, tools, and techniques for improving organizational performance in the context of disruptive technologies.  At a minimum, it should address potential effects on organizational structure and performance in terms of safety and mobility, planning, programming, asset management, investment strategies, and overall operations.  Where possible, proactive and innovative practices and strategies should be identified, including a review of relevant experience outside of the United States. 

Phase I

Phase I should detail the steps that will be used to identify disruptive technologies and, based on that identification, outline the content and organization of a guidebook for state DOTs and partner transportation organizations.  For this research effort, “organizational performance management guide” refers to a system of performance measures and procedures for implementation by the appropriate transportation planning agency.  These steps should also include a literature review that helps to define the state of the practice.  To the extent possible, this research should investigate empirical evidence on the impact of disruptive technology.  Work in this phase should also propose an approach, to be implemented in future research, to share the guide and test implementation of potential procedures for enhancing organizational response. 

Products of Phase I should include the literature review, interim deliverables, and an interim report.  The interim report will present an outline or framework for an effective organizational structure and performance management system designed to assist state DOTs and other transportation agencies on how to adapt and respond to current and emerging disruptive technologies.  The interim report should include but not be limited, to the following:

·       A review of current and anticipated issues and practices, including public and private sector response;

·      Surveys and/or case studies to illustrate current understanding of the issues as well as strategies and approaches for addressing disruptive technologies;

·       Examples of effective organizational performance management procedures to adapt to these disruptive technologies; and

·       An annotated outline of a proposed guide for state DOTs and other transportation planning agencies responsible for evaluating, approving, regulating, enforcing, and managing disruptive technologies. 

The interim report will also include a detailed scope of work for developing the components of the performance management guide in Phase II.  The NCHRP panel will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review the interim report.  NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before proceeding with Phase II. 

Phase II

Work in Phase II will complete the guide, reviewing organizational structure and performance management options, various performance requirements and performance measures, and supporting procedures for implementation of applicable strategies.  Phase II should include delineation of specific tasks that can demonstrate the effectiveness of the organizational performance management guide through a workshop or other means to engage practitioners and decision-makers that can be implemented in future research.  These tasks may also include developing additional components of the organizational performance management guide to be considered in the future. 

Final deliverables of Phase II will include at a minimum:

1.     A comprehensive guide for managing and responding to the effects of disruptive technologies on organizational performance of state DOTs and other transportation agencies, including a detailed description of proposed implementation applications for future research studies;

2.     A final report that documents the entire research effort, including examples, assumptions, descriptions of the case studies and relevant experience;

3.     A stand-alone executive summary that outlines the research findings and recommendations;

4.     An executive-level brochure/infographic highlighting findings of the research to facilitate dissemination to a broad audience, including state DOTs and other transportation agencies; and

5.     A stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (See Special Note B).

In addition to the kick-off teleconference, the research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum: (1) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting to be held at the end of Phase I; and (2) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Status:  This project is underway and in Phase II after a leadership change.

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