DOT SBIR DTRT57-16-R-SBIR1
NOTE: The Solicitations and topics listed on this site are copies from the various SBIR agency solicitations and are not necessarily the latest and most up-to-date. For this reason, you should use the agency link listed below which will take you directly to the appropriate agency server where you can read the official version of this solicitation and download the appropriate forms and rules.
The official link for this solicitation is: http://www.volpe.dot.gov/sbir
Application Due Date:
Available Funding Topics
Technological Enhancements to Improve and Expand Casual Carpooling Systems
Traditional carpooling declined in the United States from a 20% mode share in 1980 to 13% in 1990, and then to 10% in 2004, after which it has remained stable at this low level. A variation on the traditional carpool, casual carpooling, occurs in three U.S. metropolitan areas (Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Houston) and may be an important strategy to help reverse this downward trend. While both casual carpooling and traditional carpooling entail sharing rides, casual carpooling enables participants to ride with different people for each trip with no ongoing commitments, and rideshare arrangements can be made instantaneously. Casual carpooling matches drivers and riders based on the three most basic variables of mobility: origin, destination, and time of departure. Drivers and riders meet at pre-arranged locations, such as park-and-ride lots near the entrance to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, create carpools on the fly based on shared destinations, and then have no continuing obligations once the trip has ended. Casual carpooling provides the same benefits as traditional carpooling without a number of its most commonly cited limitations or drawbacks, such as related to scheduling and forging commitments.
While, as noted above, casual carpooling is clearly advantageous to its users and to transportation system efficiency overall, its benefits are limited because in most U.S. metropolitan areas and in most travel corridors, the conditions for successful casual carpooling do not exist. The necessary conditions include: HOV lanes that offer substantial time savings and require at least three people per vehicle (providing “safety in numbers” that would not exist if only two strangers are paired in a car); sufficient parking at the morning departure location; and back-up transit service for riders if a casual carpooling ride does not materialize. The absence of even one of these conditions precludes casual carpooling from getting started.
At the end of 2010, FHWA conducted a scan tour of the three metropolitan areas with existing casual carpooling systems in the U.S. (see: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/advancedresearch/pubs/12053/12053.pdf). Follow-up focus groups were conducted in each city in mid-2012 (see: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/advancedresearch/pubs/13053/13053.pdf). While a clear finding of the tour and focus groups was that casual carpoolers give their systems high grades and are skeptical of proposed major changes, many nevertheless expressed receptivity to targeted system enhancements that address specific limitations of the existing systems. Because the substantial social and practical barriers to casual carpooling have been overcome in the three metropolitan areas that were visited on the scan tour, and such barriers may not easily be overcome in metropolitan areas where casual carpooling does not yet exist, this topic is targeted to support research focused on any of the three U.S. metropolitan areas that have casual carpooling, but in a corridor or at a specific location that have a majority—but not all—of the preexisting conditions shown to enable casual carpooling (and thus where casual carpooling isn’t working well or at all). Applicants need to describe one or more barriers in a specific corridor or at a specific location in one of the three metropolitan areas that is either limiting the amount of casual carpooling occurring or is responsible for casual carpooling not occurring at all in the named corridor or location, and then describe the approach(es) that will be taken, including the institutional support to be solicited or offered, if any, to overcome the barrier(s).
Research published summarizing lessons learned from FHWA’s scan tour (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/advancedresearch/pubs/12053/12053.pdf) identified these possible system enhancements that could address barriers to casual carpooling:
- Early-arriving park-and-ride passengers may be incentivized to park further from carpool pick-up points, thereby freeing up closer-in parking for other riders who arrive later.
- Some passengers would be willing to leave their cars at home entirely—eliminating the high emissions associated with cold-starts (prior to the catalytic converter warming), the need for parking, and a household requirement for an extra vehicle—in exchange for a close-to-home pick-up (perhaps taking transit back home or getting picked up by a family member at a nearby park-and-ride lot in the evening).
- In Houston where casual carpooling works well for the morning commute to get into the city, but not in the reverse direction, and in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco where getting an afternoon lift back to some morning pick-up points is challenging, passengers would be willing to pay drivers for a reliable return trip, so long as the price is low enough to seem like a bargain as compared to other options.
- For locations with casual carpooling participation levels that are a bit shy of what is needed for a reliable return trip, an online system enhancement could be created, where drivers and passengers can efficiently arrange matches electronically, in or close to realtime, using incentives to get this started.
- Some drivers would agree to delay their return trips to near the time that the HOV restrictions are ending (and, hence, when riders are most in jeopardy of being stranded) in exchange for incentives.
- At pick-up points where riders typically need to wait for drivers, but not vice versa, some drivers would be willing to take more passengers than needed to meet minimum HOV requirements in exchange for small incentives.
- By enhancing security, new casual carpooling could be successfully launched to serve congested HOV-2 facilities, such as: through an app that requires drivers and passengers to verify their identities and records shared trips that take place; through an alternative system where drivers and passengers undergo background checks (or have their employers confirm where they work) and carry proof that they underwent such checks, or; through the use of webcams at pick-up point where video recordings of license plate numbers and driver and rider faces are made (but kept for only a short period of time, such as for one week unless a safety/security issue has been reported).
- Passengers and riders would be willing to pay, or redeem credits earned through system supporting activities, to occasionally bypass a queue, at times when the passenger or vehicle lines are long and the participant is particularly time pressed, and where the driver and rider meet very nearby to (e.g., 100 yards away from), but not at, the queue (to avoid conflicts with other casual carpoolers).
This list represents only a subset of a vast array of potential applications that could be pursued to advance the general objective of applying effective strategies to create new casual carpooling options and grow related systems so that in the not-too-distant future they could cause a meaningful impact on travel and reduce congestion.
SBIR welcomes creative approaches to addressing the general objective noted in this topic and specific related challenges identified in research or by the applicant. (In the case of the latter, the applicant should specify the challenges being addressed and offer some evidence of their significance prior to presenting proposed solutions.)
Regardless of the challenges that the applicant chooses to address and the specific approaches selected to address them, it should be a design goal of any new system to inculcate a culture whereby drivers, especially, check for incentives daily to slightly modify their trips in ways that improve the system.
Applicants should explain why what they are proposing is likely to succeed, specifically discussing the elements of successful casual carpooling systems that inform their research. Applicants, or applicant teams, are being sought with both high levels of technical expertise and a demonstration of a deep appreciation for the practical and social factors that are important to casual carpooling participants or prospective participants. Applicants must demonstrate that, to the extent that the development of new prototype technologies is proposed, they have the capabilities (either directly or through venders) to successfully complete the required work.
Expected Phase I Outcomes
The outcome expected from Phase I is a detailed concept that demonstrates the viability of one or more tools and/or approaches to catalyze casual carpooling in a corridor or at a particular location within a corridor where it does not exist, or to make it work better in a corridor or at particular location within a corridor where, while occurring, is somehow under performing its potential.
Expected Phase II Outcomes
The expected Phase II outcome is a demonstration of a working prototype of one or more tools and/or approaches that catalyze casual carpooling in a corridor or at a particular location within a corridor where it does not exist, or to make it work better in a corridor or at particular location within a corridor where, while occurring, is somehow under performing its potential. The working prototype should be designed to collect usage metrics so that its effectiveness can be discerned in the location(s) that it is tested, and also to help inform the targeting of locations and overall expansion of future deployments.
Connected Bicycle: Communicating with Vehicles and Infrastructure
The connected vehicles program is a multimodal U.S. DOT initiative that applies the potentially transformative capabilities of wireless technology to make surface transportation safer, smarter, and greener. One of the emerging technologies for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-tovehicle (V2V) communication is Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). DSRC can support communication between bicyclists and other vehicles on the road, as well as roadside infrastructure such as traffic signals. Applications based on DSRC can provide safety information such as collision avoidance warnings to motorists and bicyclists, and can cooperate with DSRC-equipped traffic signals to provide improved bicycle detection as well as to convey information to bicyclists about signal phase changes.
This research is expected to develop communication from bicyclists to other vehicles and infrastructure using DSRC communications. The contractor shall explore the use of bicycle sensor technologies such as, but not limited to, ANT+, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi in order to collect data from the bicycle (such as speed and GPS information) to share via DSRC.
The first objective is to develop a device that can be mounted to a bicycle, can collect bicycle sensor data, and broadcast a Basic Safety Message for Bicycles (BSM-B) through DSRC, and that can operate efficiently from a suitable power source (battery, dynamo, etc.). The second objective is to develop an application that can be downloaded to various types of generally used smart phones which will interface with the device. The smart phone should be used to alert the bicyclist on the display and with auditory or haptic warning information. Vehicles with DSRC will be able to receive alerts of bicyclists present on the road. This will improve the safety of bicyclist and enable mobility improvements in urban areas as bicycling continues to increase.
Phase I funding will aim to develop the concept of operations, a prototype to test the DSRC communication, and a preliminary application.
Phase II funding will aim to fully develop the DSRC device and application(s) for multiple platforms. These applications must be user friendly and provide displays of useful information to the bicyclist. Phase 2 should also include field testing and evaluation of the DSRC device, and deployment on a fleet of bicycles in an urban environment (e.g. bike share). Application(s) are expected to be immediately marketable upon completion of Phase II.
Expected Phase I Outcomes
Outcomes expected from the Phase I include a detailed concept and technical approach that demonstrate the viability of creating a prototype that satisfies the application described above.
Expected Phase II Outcomes
Phase II efforts include fully developing and demonstrating a working product that provides useful BSM-B information to vehicles and infrastructure.
Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection Devices for Transit Buses
Data are limited about the full extent of bicycle and pedestrian use, but the evidence indicates that the use of these modes is on the rise. Data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) from 2001 and 2009, a period during which bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities was decreasing, identified a slight increase in walking, and almost no change in the number of people bicycling. Although NHTS data are not available for the period in which fatalities have increased, other sources indicate walking and biking use have been on the rise in these years.
Pedestrians represent a considerable portion of traffic-related (cars, trucks and transit) injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways. In 2008, 4,378 pedestrians were killed and 69,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States; this represents 12% and 3%, respectively, of all the traffic fatalities and injuries. The majority of these fatalities occurred in urban areas (72%) where pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicular traffic, including transit buses, tend to co-mingle. Although, the pedestrian injuries and fatalities are few in number relative to other collision types, bus collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists usually carry very high cost (injury claims), attract negative media attention, and have the potential to create a negative public perception of transit safety.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 125: Guidebook for Mitigating Fixed-Route Bus-and-Pedestrian Collisions (http://www.tcrponline.org/PDFDocuments/TCRP_RPT_125.pdf) indicated that of all the collision types involving buses and pedestrians, turns at intersections was the problem most frequently reported by transit agencies. Of the incident reports reviewed, data show that 60% occurred while buses were turning (left-turn collisions were more common than right-turn collisions: 69% involved a left turn, while 31% involved a right turn). The other two common collision types were buses pulling into bus stops (15%) and buses pulling away from stops (10%).
In recent years, sensors have been developed to detect the presence of pedestrians and presence of bicycles in the path of a transit vehicle. With the development of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications, automated pedestrian detectors are beginning to complement the existing detectors. These applications optimize intersection operations and improve safety by reducing the conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians. However, there is limited understanding of the most effective technologies for automated detection, partly because of the great variety of technologies that are available, such as infrared, radar, microwave, heat sensors, pressure mats, and computer-assisted video. There are significant concerns about the reliability and questions about the maintenance requirements, liability exposure, and accessibility requirements of such devices. In the last five years, the private car industry has been increasingly using the crash avoidance technologies to prevent or mitigate crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists. Approaches that hold promises are radar, laser and camera-based vision systems which are designed to spot pedestrians and bicyclists entering a vehicle's path and either warn the driver or automatically apply the vehicle’s brake if the driver fails to react fast enough.
For this SBIR solicitation, FTA is seeking exploratory proposals that will demonstrate innovative, economically-viable, accurate, and durable technologies or devices to significantly improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in a transit environment. The primary goal of this project is to design and develop detection technologies or devices that use sensors technologies in detection of bicycles and pedestrians by leveraging innovations and developments that have occurred in commercial/passenger vehicle applications. The proposer must clearly define the uniqueness of the stand-alone system and the associated pedestrian/cyclist detection technologies and how the system would be integrated into existing transit buses for the following collision scenarios and mitigation - 1) at the street intersection in which the system is designed to mitigate and prevent (left turn, right turn, etc.), 2) at the bus stop while it is pulling in and out of transit stops, and 3) other scenarios in which the bus might strike pedestrians or cyclists.
The project must identify and characterize the effectiveness of the proposed system in a bus and how the system would:
- detect pedestrians and cyclists under different collision scenarios
- prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes (ex. warning to bus operator or warning to bus operator/ automatic braking)
- consider the human factor applications in terms of bus operator workload. Project proposals must include a methodology on how the small business will use data to quantitatively demonstrate that its innovative technology can truly improve transit system and its safety.
Expected Phase I Outcomes
1. A viable proof-of-concept that demonstrates the potential for a technology or device in a transit environment to improve safety of pedestrian and cyclist. The proof-of concept must consider the following factors:
- Efficient and low-cost technology
- Modular, interoperable, plug-and-play and open source (if applicable) device(s)
- Technology assessment with respect to industry best practices
2. Feasibility analysis (data proven) for success in developing a working prototype.
Expected Phase II Outcomes
Phase II efforts include demonstrating, manufacturing and showing feasibility of commercialization of a working prototype of the technology and device with all of the above listed Phase I outcomes.