Department Of Transportation Request For Information Signals Growing Interest In AI In The Transportation Sector

On May 3, 2024, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Advanced Research Projects Agency Infrastructure (ARPA-I) published a Request for Information (RFI)...
United States Transport
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On May 3, 2024, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Advanced Research Projects Agency Infrastructure (ARPA-I) published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking comment from interested parties on potential applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in transportation and emerging opportunities and challenges related to creating and deploying AI-enabled technologies in the industry. The RFI reflects the ongoing efforts by the Biden administration and DOT to address AI governance in the transportation sector and signals that further regulatory developments for AI-based technologies in all modes of transportation are on the horizon.


Established in 2021 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, ARPA-I is a relatively new agency within DOT that focuses on advanced research projects related to the transportation sector. ARPA-I "support[s] the development of science and technology solutions … to overcome[] long-term challenges; and … to advance the state of the art for [U.S.] transportation infrastructure." 49 U.S.C. § 119(b)(1), (2).

ARPA-I issued the RFI pursuant to the  Biden administration's Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence (EO 14110), which sets out the administration's policy goals for AI and charges federal agencies with ensuring that AI is developed and deployed safely and responsibly in their areas of coverage. EO 14110 includes express directives to DOT and ARPA-I to further those goals in the transportation context, and it specifically instructs ARPA-I to issue an RFI that explores opportunities and challenges posed by AI, including those pertaining to "software-defined AI enhancements impacting autonomous mobility ecosystems." EO 14110 further encourages ARPA-I to prioritize grant allocations to innovative AI-based opportunities identified through the RFI process, as appropriate. EO 14410 § 8(c)(iii).

Issues for Public Comment

AI applications, opportunities, and challenges

The RFI raises a number of questions for public comment, the answers to which will inform how ARPA-I approaches the development and use of AI in the transportation sector:

  • What are the relevant current or near-term applications of AI in transportation?
  • What are the future potential opportunities in transportation that AI can facilitate?
  • What are the current or future challenges of AI in transportation, including risks presented by the use of AI in transportation and potential barriers to its responsible adoption?
  • What are the opportunities, challenges, and risks of AI related to responsibly facilitating autonomous mobility ecosystems (vehicles on roads and rails, in the air, and on water), including software-defined AI enhancements and safety?

Deployment considerations

The RFI also seeks comment on any other relevant considerations that should apply to AI deployment in transportation, specifically including:

  • Potential funding priorities for transportation-specific AI R&D;
  • Data issues involving access to transportation industry datasets, development of AI testbeds, and physical and digital infrastructure needs and requirements; and
  • Workforce training and education.

Funding opportunities

The RFI identifies a range of funding opportunities for AI research and development, many of which relate to autonomous vehicles and automated driving systems, reflecting a significant focus on automobiles and roads. However, the RFI is not focused just on road vehicles like cars and trucks. Other funding opportunities include the safe operation of uncrewed air systems (UAS), which the RFI identifies as particularly relevant given the continued growth of drone use. In addition, the RFI explores potential funding opportunities in connection with water and rail transportation, prominently features a variety of safety considerations and enhancements, and considers issues related to the ability of AI systems to monitor transportation infrastructure for maintenance and traffic management and/or optimization.


The RFI provides a meaningful opportunity for many stakeholders – from infrastructure companies to connected and autonomous vehicle manufacturers to Tier 1 suppliers making substantial investments in the sector – to share their views on a broad range of issues with respect to AI applications in the transportation industry. The RFI process will not result in the immediate adoption of new rules. However, the breadth of the questions posed – and even the RFI's very existence – suggests ongoing federal interest in issues that will significantly affect the development and deployment of AI-enabled systems in the transportation sector. These issues include how to balance risk reduction and innovation, how to identify and mitigate identified risks, and how to facilitate effective consumer education on the safe use of AI-enabled products in mobility and transportation. Given the likely influence of the RFI process on future regulatory action, stakeholders should strongly consider participating in the RFI process to ensure that their views and concerns are considered as the agency gathers facts and establishes its perspective on how AI will affect the transportation sector.

Comments must be submitted to ARPA-I by July 2, 2024.

The DWT  mobility and transportation industry group is available to advise clients on these and other emerging issues as ARPA-I evaluates stakeholder comments. Please feel free to reach out to our team if you have questions about how the issues raised by the RFI might affect your business or operations.

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.

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