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Summary of EAR-Sponsored Think Tanks

A series of think tank forums, organized by the Volpe Center and futurist Glen Hiemstra of, were held in Boston, MA, Minneapolis, MN, and Berkeley, CA, in 2005. Each of the interactive forums brought together stakeholders and experts involved in the future of transportation, and participants explored issues that impact the future of transportation, identified advanced research needs, developed a list of suggested research topics, and ranked the priority topics.


The first of the 1.5-day forums was held at the Seaport Hotel and Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. Approximately 40 participants and expert speakers met to discuss and rank future advanced transportation research. Following presentations and discussion, some of the highest ranked advanced research topics to emerge that required further investigation included:

  • Interactions among humans, vehicles, and infrastructure.
  • Transportation models.
  • Intermodal network pricing.
  • Technologies such as sensors, simulations, and models.
  • Impact of externalities.
  • Viable replacements for the automobile.


The second forum was held at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Approximately 40 participants gathered for this event, which featured expert speakers on breakthrough technologies, such as nanotechnology, emerging intelligent transportation systems, and new vehicle technologies. Some of the highest ranked advanced research topics to emerge from the forum included:

  • Use of nanotechnology and smart structures for enhanced performance.
  • Innovative transportation pricing.
  • Interaction between land use and transportation.
  • Social and political issues and concerns that affect breakthrough ideas.
  • New ways to collect better data.

For more information, read the forum summary.


The final forum was held at the Faculty Club at the University of California, Berkeley. Approximately 35 participants gathered with expert speakers to discuss breakthrough technologies such as new materials, future energy possibilities, traffic-flow monitoring for safety, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's research on small aircraft transportation systems. Some of the highest ranked advanced research topics to emerge from the forum included:

  • Interactions among drivers, vehicles, and the roadway.
  • Key role of freight.
  • Safety issues.
  • Nanomaterials and their potential for infrastructure.
  • Integrated transportation infrastructure.
  • Information technology and systems research.
  • Knowledge management systems.

For more information, read the forum summary.

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019