State Research Support Partnerships
DRISI partners with university-based research centers to deliver research results and products. Each research center offers specialized technical expertise and state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, and materials.
Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology (AHMCT) Research Center
The AHMCT Research Center is located at the University of California, Davis. Its mission is to improve the safety, mobility, and reliability of California’s highways, achieve lean operations, and minimize environmental impacts while considering life-cycle assessments, sustainability, and cost-benefits. AHMCT uses advanced robotics, automation, sensing, networking, and information technologies to complete applied research supporting Caltrans’ highway and civil infrastructure construction, maintenance, and operations, as well as their digital transformation. AHMCT’s safety and sustainability research focus has recently expanded to Zero Emission Vehicles, Quality Control and Quality Assurance, Automated and Connected Vehicle Technologies, Automated Machinery Diagnostics & Prognostics, and Unmanned Aerial Systems and Drones.
Because Caltrans’ first goal is “Safety First”, there is a strong focus on safety-related research. Recent efforts have sought to automate traditionally labor-intensive tasks to get maintenance and construction workers away from live traffic lanes. To accomplish this, AHMCT evaluates commercial systems as well as conducting original research. For commercial systems, AHMCT determines whether a system provides value to Caltrans in terms of safety, mission support, cost savings, and operational efficiency. When suitable commercial systems are not available, AHMCT conducts applied research to develop systems and equipment to meet Caltrans’ needs and specifications. AHMCT also supports Caltrans by completing preliminary investigation reports that provide guidance before beginning new research and hosting peer exchange workshops that bring knowledge to Caltrans from subject matter experts across the country in the public and private sectors.
Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center Lifelines Program
The PEER Lifelines Program, located at UC Berkeley, is a partnership between lifeline providers that share a common interest in improving the response to seismic hazards. The multi-institutional research and education center focuses on developing performance-based earthquake engineering methods and design tools to better characterize potential threats due to severe ground shaking, fault rupture, soil liquefaction, and tsunami inundation.
California, located at the boundary of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, has the greatest seismic risk exposure of any state in the country. About 13,000 Caltrans–owned bridges and a roughly equal number of local agency–owned bridges face seismic risk. Caltrans’ priority is to ensure that the roadways and bridges are safe and can support emergency response and regional recovery efforts. To achieve these goals economically, accurate characterization of potential threats is necessary. Some locations are more vulnerable than others because of their proximity to active faults or poor soil conditions. PEER Lifelines develops statistical models that characterize various earthquake-related hazards to improve the understanding of where these high-risk locations are and how large the seismic demands might be. These models are then incorporated into Caltrans planning and design procedures to advance cost-effective mitigation strategies.
Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology
California PATH is an internationally recognized research program in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) that focuses on improving transportation safety, system performance, and sustainability in California through the application of advanced technologies and concepts. The added benefits of its research into areas such as transportation system management, vehicle connectivity, and vehicle automation also include reduced energy consumption, better land-use management, and improved transportation equity for all users, as well as strengthening California’s economic vitality.PATH conducts leading-edge research, developing new ITS technologies and applications and performing controlled experiments and larger field operational tests to illustrate the benefits and risks of further deployment. PATH implements its research program through public, private, and academic partnerships that also educate students, transportation practitioners, and Caltrans staff about ITS technologies and the operational benefits they offer.PATH also assists Caltrans and other California transportation agencies in understanding how the adoption of emerging transportation technologies can assist the state in attaining its ambitious public policy goals of improving safety and facilitating the movement of people, goods, and services, while also mitigating the adverse impacts of transportation, such as greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways
Focused on the future roles of alternative fuels and vehicles, the current UC Davis STEPS program, STEPS Plus, is a four-year (2019–23) multidisciplinary research consortium. Sponsored through a private-public collaboration, STEPS Plus promotes the transition to a sustainable transportation energy future by generating the theory, tools, and methods to compare promising alternative energy sources. The program addresses the uncertainty that governments and the private sector face in developing new fuel-vehicle pathways, highlighting the necessity of a comprehensive approach in reducing oil use and greenhouse gas emissions. STEPS Plus disseminates knowledge and tools to industry, government, the environmental NGO community, and the general public. STEPS plus researchers host webinars and annual workshops for consortium members to collaborate on sustainable vehicle and energy solutions and inform industry planning and government policy with timely and sophisticated science-based analysis.
Below are the five STEPS+ Research Centers and the primary questions they seek to answer.
- Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicles Research Center
What is required for developing a sustainable market for electric vehicles?
- China Center for Energy and Transportation
What policies and business decisions can help speed the commercialization of zero emission vehicles and support environmental goals in the U.S. and China?
- Energy Futures & Alternative Fuels Program
What do economic/environmental/ transportation/energy models tell us about the future of sustainable transportation? How do we hit key sustainability targets cost effectively? What policies are needed?
- Sustainable Freight Research Program
What technologies, policies and strategies are needed to achieve sustainable trucking, supply chain management and urban freight transportation? What fuel transitions are practical for rail, shipping and Air?
University of California Pavement Research Center
UCPRC is a major component in the statewide pavement program, focusing on improving the durability and management of pavements. UCPRC is multidisciplinary, addressing the areas of pavements, structures, materials, mechanical, environmental, transportation, geotechnical, and chemistry, with research programs at both UC Davis and UC Berkeley. Its goals include implementing mechanistic-empirical design, incorporating recycling and sustainability, developing quieter pavements, enhancing construction practices and project delivery, and implementing smoothness.
California’s economy depends on the ability to move goods rapidly and without damage. California’s traveling public expects a safe and efficient transportation network. As resources become limited, Caltrans must find ways to maintain and improve its extensive pavement infrastructure. UCPRC provides expertise in areas that Caltrans requires to maintain this critical transportation infrastructure.