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II. Summary - continued

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Transportation system characteristics--performance, safety, security, cost, environmental impact, economic consequences, contribution to quality of life--are largely determined by vehicles that carry people and goods. Vehicles are also a major part of the national economy: the use of private automobiles involves expenditures of over $500 billion annually (more than $160 billion for purchase of new and used cars), and the US produces $27 billion worth of transport aircraft each year. There is growing concern about the societal impacts of transportation, particularly motor vehicles, on air quality, global warming and energy use. Major opportunities exist for significant innovation in several areas, as described below.



US firms and workers have led the world in the manufacture of aircraft, engines, avionics, and air transportation system equipment. In the process, they have made a major contribution to our Nation's security and economy. Aeronautics manufacturing has meant high technology, high-quality jobs, and a positive contribution to our balance of trade. American leadership in aeronautics has also provided global benefits through the economic and cultural exchange and integration made possible through a truly global transportation system.

The growth of this industry, since the infancy of powered flight, has been the result of a strong partnership between the government, industry, and universities. Government investment in aeronautics has been focused on science, technology, infrastructure, and military aviation. This investment, worked in close partnership with industry, provided the conditions for industry success in aeronautics. A government-to-industry technology "pipeline" developed, fueling the rapid advancement of aviation.

Recently, however, the aeronautics industry has begun to face a number of difficult, new challenges. First, the end of the Cold War has permitted a reduction in defense expenditures, including significant cut backs in development of new aircraft and engines. Second, the weak financial state of the global airline industry has seriously affected orders, backlogs, and deliveries of new civil aircraft. Third, foreign governments have strongly supported the development of their own aeronautics suppliers, challenging US competitiveness in this industry.

Although the combination of these factors has had a significant impact on the industry, the US is still the leader in aeronautics technology and manufacturing. Nationally, we have the infrastructure--government, industry, and universities--to maintain leadership. We must maintain leadership in this global industry if we are to retain the national security and economic benefits that derive from aeronautics. Partnership will once again be the key to meeting national challenges and accomplishing national goals. However, we must now reexamine our traditional partnership in the context of the current and future challenges. Clearly, we must develop an integrated view of aviation system performance and affordability.


In 1992, the National Research Council identified five areas where R&D can have a major impact in aeronautics:

Lower Cost/Greater Convenience: Advances in aircraft speed, range, and payload must not increase cost or degrade service. Greater fuel efficiency and reduced operational costs must be vigorously pursued, and increases in airport and air traffic management system capacity must not decrease convenience.

Greater passenger and cargo capacity: To open markets or expand them, airports and the air traffic management system must be able to serve more people and fly cargo on more and different kinds of aircraft. Safe reductions in aircraft separation, better real-time weather reporting, and facilities for a wide variety of long- and short-range aircraft all increase personal and goods mobility, and thus benefit the industry and the economy.

Reduced environmental impact: Aircraft environmental impacts limit growth of the industry. Aircraft noise restrictions limit the proximity of major airports to large population centers, the utility of rotorcraft within cities, and the potential for supersonic flight over land. In addition, a the impact on the atmosphere of aircraft emissions is an area of growing concern that may, in the near future, limit the number and types of aircraft that fly over the United States and other environmentally conscious countries.

Greater aviation system safety: The safety of air travel in the US must be maintained as more planes operate each year. This can be achieved through better understanding of human performance in the cockpit and through improvements in avionics, flight controls, and use of artificial intelligence and fly-by-light/power-by-wire controls, and with improved non-destructive inspection techniques. The safety of air traffic management can be improved still futher by more-accurate and timely navigation information such as that provided by the Global Positioning System, through real-time sensing and communication of weather-related information, and through a improved understanding of human performance in the management and control of air traffic.

Improved aircraft performance: Advances in performance of conventional subsonic aircraft, rotorcraft, short take-off and landing aircraft, and supersonic aircraft will enable more viable expansion into new markets and expansion of existing routes in the US and throughout the world.

Key Finding

The aeronautics industry represents the strength of American manufacturing. High technology manufacturing and products support over a million high quality jobs and thousands of companies. Superior, next- generation US aircraft, engines, avionics, and air transportation system equipment can lead the way to renewed industrial competitiveness for the 21st century, supporting an industrial base that is critical to our national economy and security. Maintaining this technological superiority in the face of subsidized international competition, financially weakened global airlines, and reduced defense expenditures will require a strong partnership among government, industry, and academia. The Federal government must continue its investment in high-risk technologies with potentially high, but long-term, social and economic benefits. The private sector lacks the resources and incentive to invest in these areas since the benefits of such high-risk investment can not be realized until far in the future and are difficult for a single firm to fully capture. But the challenges of the current and future markets require that government and industry work together to identify the focus of government-funded cooperative research.

Major Objectives

Major program objectives of aeronautics research are:

  1. Maintain the superiority of US aircraft and engines.

  2. Achieve an efficient, safe, and affordable global air transportation system.

  3. Ensure the long-term environmental compatibility of the aviation system.

Challenges and New Opportunities

It is critical that the US pursue the development of high-payoff component technologies, integration and validation of high-risk technologies, and exploration of new system concepts and configurations to achieve more revolutionary gains. The following challenges and opportunities are critical to maintaining US competitiveness and improving the affordability of aviation:

  • Ensure Superiority of US Aircraft and Engines: A prerequisite for superior aircraft is technological superiority in aeronautics. The US must continue to develop the product and process technologies required for timely development of superior subsonic and high-speed civil and military aircraft. Pursuit of technologies that support major improvements in aircraft capabilities (including operating cost, capacity, range, fuel efficiency, and safety) can provide a critical edge to maintaining US competitiveness and improving the affordability of aviation. Without investment in these technologies, the US risks losing the long-term leadership required to maintain a competitive industry.

  • Ensure Environmental Compatibility of Aviation: Remarkable strides have been made in reducing the diverse impacts of aircraft on the environment. Noise and harmful emissions have been diminished with the introduction of new and derivative aircraft. Continued research and technology development is required so that more can be done. We must continue research to increase energy efficiency while decreasing noxious and ozone-depleting chemicals. The US must maintain leadership in these technologies to ensure the environmental compatibility of aviation and long-term competitiveness.

Space Launch


Space policy is an important topic in the National Science and Technology Council, which incorporated the functions of the National Space Council. The Administration's space transportation policy, as spelled out in Presidential Decision Directive NSTC-4, "National Space Transportation Policy," sets a clear course for the launch policy part of the nation's space program. It provides a coherent strategy for supporting and strengthening US space launch capability to meet the needs of the civilian, national security, and commercial sectors.

Ideas for improving the nation's space launch systems range from evolving expendable vehicles and shuttle upgrades to single-stage-to-orbit concepts, air-breathing systems, and even more exotic ideas. There is a shortage of Federal funds to pursue all promising ideas, however, and budget limits continue to be a painful but very necessary reality if we are to be fiscally responsible.

The US space launch fleet is aging and costly. Major private sector investments in expendable launch vehicles have helped maintain a US competitive presence in the international market, which has in turn helped hold down launch costs for the US government. Unfortunately, the private sector cannot bear the full burden of improving US space launch systems alone. Growing foreign competition, now including Russia and China, has cut into the market share of US firms and declining defense budgets have contributed to significant over capacity in traditional expendable launch vehicles. The continuing downsizing and consolidation we have seen in the defense industry has included major space launch manufacturers as well.

Looking ahead, it is expected that government spending for space will remain relatively constant while the commercial space sector demand grows. New commercial opportunities, such as mobile satellite communications, direct audio broadcasts, remote sensing, and satellite-based navigation systems underscore the importance of space to the emerging global information infrastructure. These information-driven industries will be a cornerstone of US competitiveness for decades to come, and dependable, affordable access to space will be crucial to US economic interests. In light of this, commercial requirements will be a necessary and integral part of planning any successful next generation launch system.


In a recent NASA study six US aerospace firms assessed the benefits that could emerge as a result of lower-cost access to space. Their conclusion is consistent with the Administration's new space transportation policy:

"The future space transportation system selected must be responsive to commercial user requirements in addition to those of government users. While low operating cost is fundamental, other parameters, such as launch dependability, higher reliability, very short booking time, and user friendliness, are of equal importance... Unless the next space transportation system satisfies these needs, that system will not be widely used commercially."

The Administration's policy assigns the chief agencies (NASA and the Department of Defense) a unique lead role, reflecting its particular capabilities and resources. The DOD will be the lead agency for modernizing and evolving current expendable launch vehicle systems. NASA will lead technology development and demonstration of next-generation reusable launch systems, such as the single-stage-to-orbit concept.

Key Finding

Research is needed for the improvement and evolution of the current expendable space launch fleet and development of future reusable space transportation systems with substantially reduced cost.

Major Objectives

Major program objectives of space transportation are:

  1. To modernize and evolve our current expendable launch vehicle fleet, taking prudent cost-effective measures to improve performance, reduce costs and increase reliability to support national needs. As the lead agency, DOD will factor in the needs of the commercial space launch industry, with a view towards keeping America competitive in the global launch services market.

  2. To push the cutting edge of technology, focusing on the development and demonstration of a next generation reusable system. As lead agency, NASA will work towards a decision in late-1996 on whether to proceed with a sub-scale flight test to prove the concept of single-stage-to-orbit. The goal of this effort is to support a decision by the end of the decade on the development of an operational next generation reusable launch system.

Challenges and New Opportunities

  • Reduce Costs and Improve Performance: It is critical that the Federal government promote the reduction in the cost of current space transportation systems while improving their reliability, operability, responsiveness, and safety by improving and evolving expendable space launch vehicles and promoting co-development with industry of a reusable launch system.

  • Foster Competitiveness: Achieving the vision of a more viable, competitive US launch industry will require improvements to infrastructure and to the current launch fleet, and development of new launch systems by DOD and NASA, with support from the private sector. The Government will foster the international competitiveness of the US commercial space transportation industry, actively considering commercial needs and factoring them into decisions on improvements in launch facilities and vehicles.

Personal (Light-Duty) Motor Vehicles


One of the strategic goals of Federal transportation R&D is enhancing the overall performance characteristics of vehicles of all types, while expanding the range of alternatives available for meeting transportation needs. Fundamental to achieving this goal is the ability to draw on relevant technology resulting from Federal and private sector R&D activities. If that process can be made effective, the US may maintain and enhance its position as a technical leader and primary exporter of transportation-related equipment and services.

Private automobiles alone account for expenditures of over $500 billion annually in the US, and for approximately half of US petroleum use. Vehicle- miles-traveled continue to increase more rapidly than population and there are now more cars than licensed drivers in the US. The functional characteristics of the automobile and widespread private vehicle ownership virtually assure the automobile's dominant role in transportation for the indefinite future. At the same time, in spite of continuing improvements, automobiles remain a major cause of degraded urban air quality and a large contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide, and are involved in most transportation-related deaths and injuries--approximately 40,000 fatalities per year.

The automotive industry directly affects the characteristics of the US transportation system with consequent profound effects on the domestic economy. About 15 percent of the US work force is employed in jobs directly or indirectly related to transportation, largely automobiles. Loss of market share of the domestic automotive industry has been a major contributor to the US trade deficit. In 1991, automobile imports cost $54 billion and resulted in a net trade deficit of $41 billion.

Recognizing the importance of the automotive industry to the country's economic well-being, the US government formed a historic new partnership with the US Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) representing the domestic automakers Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. The aim of the partnership is to strengthen US competitiveness by developing technologies for a new generation of vehicles. The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) was formally announced by President Clinton and Vice President Gore together with the CEOs of the Big Three US automakers at a White House ceremony on September 29, 1993.

The partnership is intended to provide the scientific foundation, policy, and institutional leadership on advanced vehicle technologies needed to develop affordable, highly efficient, low emission vehicles that will enhance the welfare of the Nation by contributing to economic competitiveness, energy security and improved environmental quality. The PNGV supports the Federal transportation R&D goals as well. Transportation R&D efforts will be in close coordination with the PNGV.


Americans' reliance on the automobile has had challenging consequences for the environment: high petroleum consumption, poor air quality, and the possibility of global warming. In the next decade increases in vehicle-miles traveled and in the sheer number of cars will hamper efforts to abate urban air pollution and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. The focus of efforts to reduce these adverse impacts is the development of advanced technologies leading to cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars.

Accordingly, in 1993 the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) was announced. The PNGV aims to protect the environment and strengthen US competitiveness by developing technologies for vehicles three times more fuel-efficient than today's. In the PNGV, Government and industry engineering teams will perform research to develop an automobile that is dramatically more efficient and yet safe and affordable. Research efforts will be concentrated in two areas: component technologies to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions; and manufacturing technologies that reduce the time and cost associated with design and mass-production. This effort will ensure that US automakers lead the world in automotive technology.

Key Finding

The private motor vehicle will remain central to transportation and to many facets of national life for the foreseeable future, with a very large world market. Advanced technologies such as alternative fuels, advanced propulsion systems, improved materials and manufacturing processes for application to the motor vehicle, are necessary to meet environmental and other societal goals. Focused research is also needed to support the development of an infrastructure for alternative transportation fuels and reduced-emission or zero-emission power systems.

Major Objectives

The following are the major program objectives of personal motor vehicle research:

  1. Develop a vehicle that will deliver up to three times the fuel efficiency, reduce the emissions of motor vehicles, without compromising other features such as performance, safety, room, and utility.

  2. Develop and introduce manufacturing technologies and practices that will reduce the time and cost associated with designing and mass producing this new vehicle.

Challenges and New Opportunities

Achievement of further large improvements in vehicular technologies, as envisioned in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, will necessarily be an extremely challenging undertaking. Given the degree to which the personal automobile is interwoven with American life, it is critical that the implications of alternative choices be clearly understood by individuals, manufacturers, and governments. The PNGV is critical, not only in improving the competitiveness of the automotive industry but also ensuring commercial readiness of energy efficient, environmentally friendly new generation of vehicles. Deployment of these vehicles into the population of privately owned automobiles will ensure that the US transportation system continues to offer mobility to an increasing population without restricting personal lifestyles or affecting the environment adversely. Challenges and opportunities for research include:

  • Advance Automotive Technologies: It is critical that the US government continue to utilize its base of mission-oriented R&D in generic technology areas that apply to automotive technologies. These include propulsion systems, materials, system integration, vehicle configurations, alternative fuels, utilization, operations, and fuel distribution and infrastructure.

  • Improve Productivity: Research is necessary to improve the productivity of the US manufacturing base by significantly advancing US manufacturing technology, including the adoption of agile, flexible manufacturing and the reduction of cost and lead times, while reducing the environmental impact and improving quality.

  • Enhance Efficiency: Research must be pursued that leads to improvements in the fuel efficiency and emissions of standard vehicle designs. research should focus on technologies that reduce the demand for energy from the engine and the drive train.

Medium and Heavy Duty Motor Vehicles (Trucks and Buses)


Medium and heavy duty trucks and buses represent a significant segment of the transportation sector in the US. Trucks and buses constitute 24 percent of the total number of vehicles that travel over US highways and streets, accumulate 29 percent of the vehicle miles associated with road-based vehicles, yet consume 45 percent of the energy used by road vehicles. In addition, trucks and buses contribute heavily to the pollution of our atmosphere and add to the growing concern about the societal impacts of motor vehicles on air quality and global warming. With transportation vehicles representing a major portion of the US economy, it is vital to maintain competitiveness of our US produced trucks and buses so that the Nation can continue, if not increase, our share of the vehicle world market. It is essential that research be directed at reestablishing and improving the position of the US as a technological leader and primary exporter of trucks and buses.


Diesel engine emissions are a target for improvement in all cities with heavy downtown traffic, but the situation is especially acute in Los Angeles. In order to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from buses, the FTA is sponsoring the Los Angeles mass transit agency to develop an advanced city bus that will be more accessible for disabled passengers, will utilize light weight materials (for the improvement of fuel efficiency and the reduction of damage to the city streets, and will be powered by an hybrid propulsion system. An efficient, low-floor bus has the potential for increasing sales of buses manufactured in the US in the world marketplace.

ARPA and DOE are also pursuing bus vehicle improvements, generally with the cost shared by industry, to develop advanced structures, electric propulsion, diesel propulsion, hybrid systems, and enabling technologies. The objective is to enable transportation to take maximum advantage of advanced technologies developed throughout the US

Key Finding

It is prudent that the US government direct R&D efforts toward major improvements in the overall performance characteristics of trucks and buses, particularly related to fuel economy and emission control, and in expanding the range of vehicle alternatives to satisfy local and intercity transportation needs.

Major Objectives

  1. Improve and regain the US position in the world truck and bus market.

  2. Assure that advanced truck and bus technologies consider accessibility, energy efficiency, and environmental impacts.

Challenges and New Opportunities

  • Improve Truck and Bus Technology for Improved Performance, Safety, Energy and Environmental Characteristics: Research is needed to develop improved materials, components, and design concepts for transit buses and trucks, including advanced diesel technology, alternative fuels, fuel cells, and electric propulsion. A key challenge for R&D is to reduce truck and bus vehicle emissions sufficiently to meet year 2000 EPA requirements.

  • Attract Riders to Public Transportation: Applications of technology innovations to transit buses will offer significant advances in attracting riders, improving service, efficiency and performance, providing access to disabled users, and reducing environmental impacts. The scale and implications of these improvements in urban transportation warrant high priority for Federal R&D.

Rail Vehicles (Intercity and Transit)

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Transportation R&D - Table of Contents


Executive Summary

I. Overview

II. Summary

II. Summary - continued

II. Summary - continued

III. Conclusion


Strategic Planning Document - Transportation R&D

Department of Transportation