USDOT Previews FY21 Small Business Innovation Research Program Topics

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is providing a preview of the 13 topics to be featured in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program this year. Program grants will total $1.9 million.

The topics focus on “applying innovation and technology to address research challenges in areas such as materials, infrastructure and safety” for the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The SBIR Program awards contracts annually to small businesses to spur research and commercialization of transportation technologies. Contracts are awarded in two phases, and the program recognizes a third phase leading to commercialization.

FRA is seeking two solutions this year. One is to improve passenger train exterior side door safety through the development of technology that “can determine whether the exterior doors of a passenger train are closed and communicate this information to the train operator.” (MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) started returning its Bombardier R179 fleet to revenue service Sept. 23, 2020, following modifications to production quality issues, including doors, which opened un-commanded on Dec. 24, 2019 and Jan. 3, 2020.) The other is for the development of a portable wheel geometry measuring device that can be used in the shop and the field by a single operator.

FTA is also looking for two solutions: Using robots for unmanned disinfection and decontamination of transit assets such as trains, buses and transit facilities; and implementing artificial Intelligence (AI) to inspect, repair and sanitize transit vehicles, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.


This pre-solicitation preview runs through Feb. 2. The U.S. DOT anticipates release of its FY21 Phase I solicitation on or about Feb. 4.

VisioStack is among the small businesses that received SBIR contract grants in 2020.  

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