United States: Key Federal Transportation Innovation Initiatives: What, When, And Why?

Nathaniel Kron is Sr Public Affairs Advisor and Taite McDonald is Sr Policy Advisor in the Washington D.C. office.

Over the past year, the federal government has released numerous initiatives and announcements aimed at facilitating transportation innovation. Such initiatives range from a proposed $4B toward the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies to updated guidance for autonomous vehicles released late last month. While it is evident that the federal government seeks to play a key role in transportation innovation, the appropriate avenues for stakeholder participation and collaboration are less evident.  However, it is important for industry and key stakeholders to understand that their participation across seemingly disparate agencies and programs can be enormously beneficial, if not critical, to the successful deployment of these initiatives. The summary below provides a brief overview of a few of the recent initiatives, next steps to participate, and what to expect in 2017.

U.S. DOT Autonomous Vehicle Guidance


The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recently released guidelines for autonomous vehicles. The new driverless vehicle guidelines stop short of official regulations, but the guidance is the most potentially impactful federal government action in the space to date since it is likely to lead to future legislative, regulatory, and enforcement action. Accordingly, it's critical for technology and government stakeholders to review the guidelines and comment on the section(s) relevant to their business.

Subsequently, DOT expects to issue the first revised policy sometime next year, and at roughly annual intervals after that. Key congressional committees overseeing autonomous vehicle policy are the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Congress's overall approach at this time is to avoid overregulation and a patchwork of state regulations. However, Congress will inevitably need to become involved given the current limitations of DOT authority. 

In addition to technology development, the emphasis of Congressional oversight will be an emphasis on the appropriate amount of regulation pertaining to safety.  More broadly, new regulations have the ability to affect manufacturer liability, design standards, and insurance coverage, among other issues.

Next Steps

NHTSA's request for comment on the guidelines will be open for 60 days.  NHTSA hopes to receive comments on the guidance from technology providers, manufacturers, consortiums and other governing bodies to refine and improve the guidelines in an efficient and expeditious manner.  Stakeholders should note that comments do not need to be extensive or comprehensive, but nonetheless it is important to submit pertinent feedback. 

Advanced Transportation Technology Deployment Funding at DOT


In January, DOT announced that it proposed spending of $4B over ten years to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects. As of this writing, plans to approve and deploy that funding are not yet realized. However, NHTSA's budget requests $200M in 2017 for the proposed Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program. Also, NHTSA requests $56M for an Alternative Fuels, Electronics, and Emerging Technologies program to conduct research and testing in support of the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles.

As companies wait for these proposed programs to develop, some existing DOT programs can fund deployments of innovative technology, including autonomous vehicles. These include the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Initiative (ATCMTD) as well as DOT's "Smart Cities" Initiative, which will invest over $160M in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations.

Next Steps

While the Smart Cities Challenge has been awarded to Columbus, Ohio and the program has no plans at this time to seek new applicants, other potential funding remains available. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) established the ATCMTD with funding of $60M per year through 2020. DOT released the first solicitation in March 2016 and expects to announce awards in 2016. We expect a new release in a similar time frame in 2017. While only state or local governments, transit agencies, or metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) are directly eligible, partnerships with business and technology providers are encouraged; thus, companies seeking to access this funding should begin forming state and local government partnerships that align with their technology deployment goals in advance of the solicitation release next year. More broadly, although the exact program structure has yet to be finalized pending the approval of appropriations bills for FY17, both the House and Senate appropriations reports contain language supporting the development, deployment, and oversight of autonomous vehicles. Stakeholders will have greater clarity after the approval of the federal budget.

Transportation Funding Developments in the DOE Loan Guarantee Program


In July, the Department of Energy (DOE) held a Sustainable Transportation Summit, where the DOE Loan Program Office (LPO) issued a supplement to its Title XVII Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy (REEE) Projects Solicitation. The supplement clarifies that certain electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities – including associated hardware and software – are now an eligible technology under the solicitation.

Although not discussed as part of the Summit, LPO's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program still has $16B in low-cost financing authority that has the potential to aid developers of autonomous vehicles.  LPO officials are currently evaluating whether autonomous vehicle projects are eligible under program rules. To be eligible under the ATVM loan program, a light-duty vehicle or components must contribute to a 25% improvement in fuel economy over a 2005 model year baseline.

Under both DOE loan programs, LPO officials continue to operate in a conservative manner and place significant emphasis on contracted revenue streams to support repayment of project debt. As a result, technology developers will want to think creatively about project structure and ways to firm up off-take agreements to meet DOE's standards.

Next Steps

Interested applicants should review the ATVM and REEE program rules and solicitation guidance to evaluate their eligibility, project plan, and the likelihood of success. LPO encourages applicants under either program to discuss potential projects with them before embarking on an application. Most notably, companies should think carefully about revenue streams and risk mitigation strategies to present the most compelling case to DOE from the outset and then begin to craft an application.

Outlook for the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office


The DOE Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports the development and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies including advances in electric vehicles, engine efficiency, and lightweight materials. Key proposed initiatives for the coming year include:

  • Electric Drive Technologies R&D: VTO plans that an Electric Drive Technologies Development funding opportunity announcement (FOA) topic in FY 2017 will develop integrated electric drive systems that can achieve performance and cost targets with improved reliability and power density. In addition, an Electric Drive Technologies Research FOA topic in FY 2017 will develop advanced materials and technologies for Wide Bandgap (WBG) packages and power module designs to accelerate power. These topics are part of a $39M budget request, and VTO expects to select 3-4 projects. 
  • Battery Technology R&D: VTO expects to choose eight new competitively-selected awards for advanced battery materials research to capitalize on recent beyond lithium ion advances and novel electrolyte concepts. The focus will be on the following: mesoscale heterogeneous electrolytes, organic/inorganic nano-composites, and interface-augmented ionconductors. Further, VTO plans to choose up to six new FOA awards to build on the successes of an FY 2013 FOA entitled "Improvements in Cell Chemistry, Composition, and Processing." This grant funding would come from a $130M request.

In addition to this planned funding, VTO typically issues a program-wide FOA with a broader array of topics and an "open" category. This solicitation is typically released in June depending on the agency's budget situation.

Next Steps

Companies with projects that align with VTO's proposed funding for 2017 should explore meeting with VTO officials to gain further insights into topic areas and funding amounts. Companies whose potential projects do not align with DOE's current stated FOA topics should still examine how they may be able to compete in a program-wide funding announcement and align with VTO goals to further their company's technology development efforts.

Given the complexity and evolving nature of these programs, if stakeholders have questions, H&K's Government Energy Finance team and broader Public Policy and Regulation group can assist. Collectively, H&K is working on numerous aspects of transportation innovation initiatives and we are happy to provide further insights to stakeholders.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.