The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)—a division of the US Department of Transportation—is funding research into blockchain to overhaul highway administration. Funding up to $4 million is up for grabs to any company that can deliver proposals for a "revolutionary" transformation of highway engineering by the March 20, 2020 deadline.

The FHWA is investigating blockchain for several use cases as part of a Broad Agency Announcement issued by its Exploratory Advanced Research Program. Proposed research topics include secure certificate management for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure applications, and highway pricing—with the agency seeking "dynamic and auction-based mechanisms."

The private sector is already exploring this area as part of the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), a collective of five leading car manufacturers including BMW and Ford. MOBI is currently field testing a blockchain vehicle ID system that would record service history and ownership on the blockchain, enabling automated payment of highway tolls and parking charges.


Routing freight with blockchain

The FHWA’s Broad Agency Announcement is also seeking blockchain-based proposals relating to freight data management. Specifically, the FHWA is looking for projects that can improve security by anonymizing data around routing and timing for the pickup, transfer, and delivery of goods.

Transport is undoubtedly an area in which blockchain can prove beneficial. Harnessing blockchain's immutable ledger to track and secure goods and services not only slashes costs but can heighten traceability, security, and efficiency. In Canada, for example, Walmart rolled out a blockchain-based freight and payment network to 70 trucking partners in late 2019.

The FHWA isn't the only national agency sniffing around blockchain. Australia's ministry for industry, science, and technology has released a blockchain roadmap detailing a mass restructuring of the country's infrastructure. Australia's drive toward blockchain inclusion hopes to produce a sector worth $175 billion (AUD 259.4 billion).

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