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Technical and Administrative Questions: U.S. DOT SBIR FY 2019 Solicitation

The technical and administrative question period for this solicitation closed on April 3, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. (ET). Answers to questions received prior to the closing date and time will be posted below. Please review the Q&A below as well as the frequently asked questions page before submitting your offer. Questions about Appendix C: Contract Pricing Worksheet will be accepted through April 15, 2019. 

Go directly to questions and answers related to the following topics:

Administrative Questions

I am planning to work as a subcontractor for a small business to compete for this SBIR opportunity. Aside from the subcontract the small business will give to my university, the small business also wants to hire some undergraduate students. These students will be paid directly by the small business and their salaries will not be included in the subcontract. Will the salaries of these students be considered subcontractor/consultant costs?

Labor costs for any individual that is not an employee of the company are considered subcontractor/consultant costs. So, in the scenario provided, the answer would be yes. The student costs are subcontractor/consultant costs and thus are costs that apply toward the “33%” allowance of subcontractor/consultant costs for SBIR Phase I offers.

I see the Government has issued an amendment to the solicitation. What do I need to do?

Please review any solicitation amendments prior to completing and submitting an offer. As stated in item #1 on page 2 of Amendment 0001, please attach a signed acknowledgement of the amendment(s) to your offer by completing boxes 8 and 15 on page 1 of the amendment (Standard Form 30) and including it in the Appendix A and B PDF file in your offer. You may also acknowledge receipt of the amendment(s) elsewhere in your offer or in a separate letter/communication which includes a reference to the solicitation and amendment numbers. 

Under heading #3 of the Technical Section, the Phase I Work Plan, do we also include descriptions of the tasks and figures, or is that discussed under heading #2, Phase I Technical Objectives?

It is important to address each heading in the technical section of the offer as identified and described in pages 12-15 of the solicitation. Clearly explaining tasks can be done in either the Phase I Technical Objectives or the Phase I Work Plan. It is probably appropriate to do so more in the Work Plan, however, dependent on the flow of the offer, it is not a problem if task descriptions/figures are addressed within the technical objectives.

Are there any restrictions to including a foreign company as a teaming partner/subcontractor as part of the response and delivery of services?

Subcontractors must also be in the United States. In very rare circumstances, a Government Contracting Officer (CO) may approve the use of a foreign subcontractor, but it would have to be well documented as to why the foreign subcontractor is the only one capable of meeting a requirement, and requires pre-approval in writing from the CO. The SBIR Policy Directive states, "The R/R&D work must be performed in the United States. However, based on a rare and unique circumstance, agencies may approve a particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States, for example, if a supply or material or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States. The funding agreement officer must approve each such specific condition in writing."

An offer would not be declined due to proposing a foreign subcontractor, however, it should be thoroughly explained within the offer as to why a foreign subcontractor is proposed. If the particular offer is chosen for award based on the evaluation, then further details and approval by the CO to utilize the foreign subcontractor will be worked out during the negotiation/award process.

The solicitation states: "No one offer may be accepted under more than one topic. A small business may, however, submit separate offers on different topics, or different offers on the same topic under this solicitation." Is it correct to assume that if a vendor has more than one solution for the same research topic, they may explain both solutions in one offer? 

It is not advisable to submit two topic solutions in one offer. When evaluating an offer the Government will do so in accordance with Section III of the solicitation. The Government evaluates each offer as a whole and will not provide two evaluations on a single offer. Additionally, if an offer is selected for award, the proposed technical section is incorporated into the contract as the work statement and thus the technical section must be acceptable as proposed. If the Offeror is suggesting doing both solutions if selected for award and it is within the budget ceiling this may be acceptable, but it still presents a risk as the Government may like one solution and not the other, which would likely negatively impact the evaluation.

Are reports to be submitted in electronic format only? If Phase I reports are required in hard copy, how many copies should be provided?

The U.S. DOT SBIR program receives all of its report deliverables in electronic format. No hard copy reports are required unless specifically designated in a contract award document.

Is purchasing equipment manufactured in foreign countries allowed? For example, could we use flight controllers which were developed outside of the U.S. for Phase I?

Materials/equipment purchased through an SBIR funding agreement should be U.S. manufactured. In very rare circumstances, such as if a supply/material is not available in the U.S., a Government Contracting Officer (CO) may approve the use of foreign manufactured materials/equipment. If an offeror proposes such items, it must be thoroughly explained in the offer as to why the foreign product is being proposed. If an offer with foreign materials proposed is selected for an award, details and CO approval will be pursued at that time.

Technical Questions

190-FH1: Vehicle Communication via Induction Paint

We were not able to find any pertinent reference publications on this topic. Can you please provide some references if available?

No reference materials are available specifically on this topic. Please consider resources like TRID where similar research may exist.

The topic description refers to road striping paint or thermoplastic tape as the communication medium. A variant of the latter, thermoplastic paints were discontinued due to the surface smoothness causing wheel slippage. We think the thermoplastic tape will be equally smoother than the paints; are you still open to such medium for communication?

Consider recent reports like FHWA-HRT-17-076 and FHWA-HRT-12-048. Several states use thermoplastic tape for pavement markings.

Is the concept that the road paint is the signal source, i.e., that information is decoded from the paint pattern and detected from an electromagnetic signature from a receiver in motion (a passive system)?

Yes. The concept is that the road paint is a medium for communicating with the vehicle.

Is it expected/allowed that other supporting electronics be developed for the system? For example, is the concept that the inductive paint acts as an antenna to feed signals to a transmitter/receiver device and/or an inductor for harvesting power wirelessly from a passing vehicle?  

That example would appear aligned with the Phase I topic description. There may be other operations enabled through induction paint that could be considered.

If roadside mounted electronics are allowed can they include a power source such as a battery?

It would be reasonable to propose that the vehicle communication via induction paint would need some power source. That may be via battery in the roadside or other sources.

Please clarify requirements for 2-way communication. This suggests a transceiver coupled to the induction paint that is capable of data storage and transmission. 

The example provided here would appear aligned with the Phase I topic description.

190-FH2: Innovative, Low-Cost Methods for Concrete Bridge Deck Assessment

Is the requirement for "low cost" intended to emphasize capital/acquisition costs or operating/assessment costs?

The low-cost requirement is not specifically intended to emphasize either of these two cost aspects. Researchers should consider all associated costs.

190-FM1: Motor Carrier Safety Data Information Exchange Using Blockchain

Could you share some references that provide insight on the current system that FMCSA uses for data information exchange?

Please see this website: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/information-systems/itd/core-itd, which outlines the current system for information exchange.

Is FMCSA seeking a specific recommendation of how the blockchain may be used (e.g. a specific idea implementation based on the specific ITD datasets), or is FMCSA interested in studying the feasibility more broadly of a generalized solution regarding how blockchain may be used to eventually track all data transactions (identifying in Phase I the scope and subset of data that will be included in Phase II)? Is FMCSA envisioning as a prerequisite that all data sources/types that are currently tracked as part of current ITD core capabilities must also be included in the test platform for Phase II (i.e., all data/processes must be evaluated for the blockchain in Phase I)? Or, does FMCSA anticipate that Phase I will be used to scope Phase II (i.e., which types of data – whether registration, safety, screening, credentials, taxes, etc.) to determine what and how data is tracked on the blockchain?

For Phase I, FMCSA is interested in studying the feasibility of blockchain technology for supporting its operations, both broadly and specifically, as appropriate. Additionally, FMCSA would like to be able to scope a subset of data that will be included in Phase II in order to demonstrate this feasibility on a small scale. 

Will the contractor have 100% responsibility for recruiting a state and motor carrier for participation in the Phase I study, or does FMCSA have leads/contacts whom the FMCSA has identified on a preliminary basis?

FMCSA will make recommendations for recruiting a state and a motor carrier including specific points of contact.  The contractor will be responsible for recruiting.

If the contractor identifies a motor carrier partner, has criteria already been established by FMCSA that may preclude some carriers’ participation (e.g. size or geographic considerations)? For example, must the motor carrier be located in the same state as the state participant?

Although no criteria have been established by FMCSA for identifying a motor carrier partner, the contractor will be required to seek approval from FMCSA before recruiting a carrier. FMCSA does want a motor carrier participant to be domiciled in the participating state in order to explore the applicability of Blockchain with base-state filings by a motor carrier such as vehicle registration, fuel tax, or unified carrier register filings.

Will FMCSA make any financial incentives or grants available to the the state and/or motor carrier to encourage participation and/or offset these participants’ costs in a blockchain feasibility study?

No financial incentives will be available.

Has the Department made any design decisions or developed assumptions that are currently available prior to the Phase I feasibility study? For example, will the chain be a private, public, or hybrid chain? Are there other blockchain initiatives that may require evaluation of interoperability or cross chain considerations as part of Phase I? Are there any specific scale assumptions regarding the volume of data that the blockchain may need to support?

No, the Department has not made any assumptions. However, FMCSA is working together with representatives from the Department and will work cooperatively with the Department and other modal administrations. The contractor will work together with FMCSA and the Department. 

Must offerors have the motor carrier and state partnerships firmly established prior to submitting a Phase I offer, or may offerors meet this requirement and solidify the partnerships after offer submission/prior to award?

Offerors may meet this requirement and solidify the partnerships after award.

For more information about recruitment and partnerships, see the additional questions on this topic above.

For the partnering carrier, is there a specific, limiting, or range of size that is intended by the program manager? 

The carrier should be a medium to large carrier, at least 50 power units, and a for hire carrier that has interstate operating authority with FMCSA.

Can we partner more directly with a carrier logistics company in using carrier information instead of directly with a carrier?

FMCSA is interested in partnering with a carrier to test the data exchange between the carrier and FMCSA systems. So, it is required to partner with a carrier or a company the carrier has hired to serve as their agent to file required documents with FMCSA and their base state (i.e. USDOT number biennial update, International Registration Plan annual renewal, etc.).

The description for this research topic states the following: “FMCSA is interested in whether this system is scalable to interact with the required entities…”  Can offerors be provided with any current analytics/metrics so that we can affirmatively demonstrate that our proposed system can easily meet FMCSA's needs? That is, from the centralized systems presently used to accomplish what FMCSA needs, do we know the current periodic rate of submissions?

This will be shared with the awardee during Phase I.

We will be able to more realistically model how our proposal would handle real FMCSA data if we had access to real data. Will offerors be able to use any real-world data, or at least have access to the DB schemas used?

This will be shared with the awardee during Phase I.

The description for 190-FM1 makes mention that "FMCSA also enables online solutions for motor carrier companies to... pay registration fees and file fuel taxes with State agencies." To the degree that FMCSA wants their system decentralized, is it their intent for registration fees and fuel tax payments to be made using cryptocurrencies or is the intent for those payments to be made using US Dollars (or another fiat currency) and for the system to record proof of those payments?

Payments would be made in U.S. dollars.

Who are the intended users of the Information Exchange? Please provide the organizations these users belong to and their role.

More information regarding the current system is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/information-systems/itd/core-itd. The envisioned users are FMCSA, motor carriers, States, insurance companies, and service of process agents.

Are there any systems that could potentially be interacting with the information exchange?

Yes, it is envisioned that the current FMCSA, State, and industry systems and authoritative databases exchanging information today would be modified or replaced to interact with a new Blockchain-based information exchange. More information will be shared with the awardee in Phase I.

What are the types of data that the information exchange is expected to store – (a) Driver’s license, background, safety records - citations (b) carrier organization’s safety compliance, inspection and insurance, violations, (c) manufacturer’s safety rating, tests, recalls, service information. Please provide as exhaustive a list as possible.

The information exchange is for data related to required documents motor carriers must have to operate, such as filings to maintain an active USDOT number and insurance filings to maintain operating authority with FMCSA, vehicle registration application and fees and returns on fuel taxes with State agencies, credential issuance, and information related to International Registration Plan (IRP).

What are the requirements around authenticity of the information entered in the exchange? Which party owns the data and who is responsible for governing the information exchange?

These questions will be determined during Phase I.

190-FR1: Portable Stiffness/Elastic Modulus Measurement System

The solicitation calls for a portable measurement system. With respect to the “portability” requirement for the system, are there limitations or specifications that FRA can offer as guidance, for example, by way of defining a maximum weight or physical size of the device? Is this intended to be hand-held by one person, or is a solution that can be put on a cart that rides along rails acceptable (either moved or operated by one or more persons)?

This is intented to be a hand-held device. Operation by one person is desirable.

Is there a threshold requirement for a time-frame to complete a test observation using the device, from setup to output to the software (e.g., seconds, minutes, hours, etc.)?

No, but track time is limited, making efficient data gathering important.

The solicitation states that it is “envisioned, although not required, that an existing portable system may be adapted to achieve the expected outcome.” Is it preferable, from the FRA’s perspective for the SBIR topic, to extend an existing portable system over a potentially newer system that might offer higher accuracy and cost-effectiveness (assuming it can be demonstrated and prototyped within the Phase I/II time/funding constraints)? Are both of interest and acceptable to FRA? Is there a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) that FRA can offer as guidance for the entry concept/device, or is any TRL acceptable?

The least costly, most accurate device that can be deployed in the required timeframe of the SBIR program is desired. TRL is preferred be 3 to 6.

What is the mean and largest (say 90th percentile) diameter of ballast aggregate that the system should be designed to accommodate?  

Ballast consists of fine grained fouling material up to 2 in. aggregate. When clean, ballast should be uniform coarse aggregate. 

For the Phase I proof-of-concept, the solicitation highly encourages a prototype be demonstrated. Is it acceptable to propose a scaled prototype in Phase I, i.e., a small device that can be demonstrated in a small lab that might be smaller than the actual device to pursue in Phase II (as long as it proves the concept/device)?  

This could be acceptable, but presents challenges to scaling ballast grain size that would need to be addressed. 

What is the current standard for crushed aggregate bases and ballast measurement? What is the key issue with the current measurement?

There is no current measurement, only that ballast satisfy the Track Safety Standards (TSS) 113.103 requirements for ballast.

What area is desired for a single measurement?

The crib area between ties for a number of ties.

What is the depth range of the aggregate?

Tie height plus 12-24 in. of ballast.

What kind of gravel or rocks constitute the aggregates?

Typically hard rock aggregate.

What aggregate sampling frequency is anticipated for the final use case (e.g. every 20 ft.)?  

A measurement on the order of the length of track addressed during maintenance (a few hundred feet) would likely be desired by industry while more closely spaced measurements might be useful during inspections, if practical considering the time required for each measurement.

190-FR2: Wireless Pore Water Pressure Sensor

Is hardline power available at the intended monitoring sites? Is solar power a preferred operating mode?

No hardline power is available. Solar or battery power is preferred.

What communication method is ideal for this application (Satellite, Radio, Cellular, etc.)?

Cellular

At what measurement interval would data ideally be collected and reported?

Measurements are to be collected per train, with adequate sampling frequencies to resolve wheel loads.

Is there an existing communication platform the developed 'wireless' module would need to communicate to? Or would a full data path solution be the objective?

A full data path solution is the objective, however, each host RR has preferred communication platforms.

Could you share references or information for reports or information currently used to collect this data?

No reports to share at this time.

Are contactless measurement methods preferred?

FRA is open to any measurement method.

What would be the ideal lifespan of the developed technology (e.g. 1 year, 5 years, etc.)?

6 months to 1 year is ideal.

Would the developed sensor be co-located with an existing sensor structure or platform? Or is it intended as a standalone device?

This can be a standalone device or available for use with hi-rail vehicles.

Would additional sensor measurements supporting FRA guide Accident/Incident reports be desired within the scope of Phase I?

No, however, this may be suitable for a Phase II application.

At what height(s) is the intended sensor set to measure? According to the existing FRA guide's input requirements, would this be a single or stacked measurement solution?

The preferred height is a depth of 1' to 48" below top of tie.

Measurement should be made “dynamically under traffic.” Is this intended to mean wheel-by-wheel effects, or simply long-term effects from passing trains? What is the expected bandwidth/sample rate, if known?

The goal is detection of long term effects from passing trains. Resolving wheel loads may be necessary to identify the long term effects.

The device should be “retrievable and reusable,” suggesting it will be installed only temporarily. What is the expected time duration for any particular installation?

There is no defined duration, but we expect the installation to be temporary which would make potential retrieval desirable.

Roughly how many individual sensors are intended for a single installation?

One or more.

Is data intended to be collected from sensors while they are installed, or after they are retrieved? If while installed, what is the expected range from the sensor at which collection would take place?

Data is expected to be collected from the track surface near the installation location.

Is the device intended for use underneath the ballast, or at some distance from the track? What are the operative track-fouling restrictions?

The only obstruction to traffic should be during the installation process, with the device completely within the track structure during monitoring. Any required surface equipment must not obstruct traffic.

Are there varying points in the trackway (e.g., directly under rails, under ties, in the center but not under supports) that are of particular interest to measure?

No. 

Would the sensors be placed and removed at times that it was known that there would be no rail traffic? If so, should the sensors be placed such that they are vertical within the trackway, or be able to be inserted into appropriate levels of the ballast from the side of the track?

Installation should occur at times with no rail traffic. Installation either from the surface or side of the track is acceptable.

Given installation locations, should vandalism or theft of the units be a significant concern to be addressed in the design?

Installation is expected to be below ground. If surface mount equipment is required, vandalism may be a concern.

Is there a known or projected cost-per-unit target?

No. 

190-FR3: Automated Detection of Broken Spike Fasteners in Wood Tie Railroad Track

Would a sensor that requires physical contact with the spike be feasible (time scale less than one second)?

Non-contact technologies are preferred, but FRA is open to contact technologies as well. 

Are there sample images of this condition, or could images be collected as part of the SBIR research? If there are sample images, what is the volume or number of them?

Sample images have been provided in the presentation referenced in the 190-FR3 topic description on page 48 of the solicitation. The FRA has conducted a thorough survey with multiple railroads, from which it has gathered a number of images related to the spike breakage issue from different locations. These will be shared with the awardee upon request. 

Would DOT provide representative sample materials in Phase I or Phase II, e.g. broken fasteners in wood tie?

It may be possible to acquire samples of broken spikes for a Phase I awardee, but this cannot be guaranteed. Providing a wood crosstie is not feasible.

In the description for 190-FR3, the phrase “In many cases, visual inspections are not adequate to identify a failed spike,…” can be interpreted a couple of different ways. It could be interpreted as the FRA is seeking new technologies so that visual inspections become adequate. Alternatively, it could interpreted that the FRA feels visual inspections are ultimately inadequate for the task of identifying failed spikes because the failure happens below the surface and out of range of the capabilities for visual inspection. Would the FRA consider a proposed solution that primarily utilizes visual inspection, or is the FRA looking for more advanced scanning techniques along the lines of ground penetrating scans as the primary tool?

The latter interpretation of that particular statement in the solicitation (i.e., “FRA feels visual inspections are ultimately inadequate for the task of identifying failed spikes because the failure happens below the surface and out of range of the capabilities for visual inspection”) is correct. As such, in response to the question, FRA is looking for advanced scanning techniques as the primary tool.

What is the threshold (minimum acceptable) and objective (preferred) rate of spike measurement per unit time (hour, minute, etc.)?

FRA has not set a threshold or objective rate of spike measurement per unit time. Although, it is ideal that the technique proposed should be efficient enough that there is minimal effect to railroad operations; that is, FRA is ideally looking for something that can be applied at hi-rail speeds, but will accept a technique that can be undertaken at walking speeds.

Are there Federal Laboratory facilities available, and if so at what cost, where we can study the phenomenology of spike failure under various calibrated conditions of the railroad ties, for example, a multitude of embedded spikes in healthy ties, or embedded spikes in water-logged ties, etc.? If Federal Laboratory facilities are available, are we able to do destructive testing of railroad ties in order to establish a ground truth, for example core sampling of ties?

FRA is currently undertaking research efforts to understand the root cause of the spike failures, as noted in the solicitation. As such, FRA will not support additional efforts to further investigate this phenomenon. 

Would technologies enabling the testing for degradation of wood crossties be beneficial information to include in the offer?

FRA is not interested in technologies for testing of the degradation of wood crossties as part of the solicited effort.

190-FR4: In-Vehicle Highway Rail Grade Crossing Alert System

Is there an existing database that contains information regarding accident, incident, and fatality rates for rail grade crossings?

Yes, see the following link: https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/on_the_fly_download.aspx

Does the scope of this topic include any railroad crossings beyond those that are included in the National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Program (NTAD)?

The scope will be limited to NTAD, since it has all the crossings in the US; both public and private.

Will the awardee(s) have access to detailed collision data for railroad crossing incidents?

Crossing accident data are available on the FRA Office of Safety’s public website. Visit https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/on_the_fly_download.aspx and select “Highway Rail Accidents (6180.57)” from the Table Name drop-down menu. Additional information on particular crossings is also available at https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/webaps/

Does the Federal Railroad Administration have real-time data that can be made available, such as train locations or status of railroad crossing signals?

No, Railroads do not publish or share their train schedules, train locations, or grade crossing status with FRA.

Does the Phase I outcome involve, in addition to identification of the high risk crossing and a warning to the driver that he/she is approaching that crossing, a warning to the driver that a train is coming, if a train is imminent?

The topic idea does not require that the device provide warnings to the driver of an approaching train at the high-risk railroad crossings.

190-FR5: Improved Condition Monitoring of Traction Motors

What is the desired operational use of the end system?

The desired operational use includes: identification of traction motor failure modes and methods for identifying and preventing such failures, identification and evaluation of current condition monitoring systems, development of a concept or methodology for condition monitoring of traction motors, and identification of precursors to critical traction motor failure modes.

Could you describe a good prototyping scenario?

Such a scenario can be determined during the effort with the idea of monitoring the health of traction motors.

Who are the intended users?   

Railroads/railroad operators.

What are the current condition monitoring and predictive maintenance practices used for locomotive traction motors?

That is to be identified during the Phase I effort.

What existing condition monitoring equipment (if any) would a predictive maintenance prototype need to integrate with?

That is to be determined during the Phase I effort.

How many measurands/sensors are typically available on traction motors for condition monitoring?

Associated sensors vary depending on the particular monitoring system of interest, but can be further defined during the research effort.

What are the primary types of measurands/sensors used for assessing the health of traction motors?

Associated sensors vary depending on the particular monitoring system of interest, but can be further defined during the research effort.

Will traction motor data be provided to awardees for Phase I development?

No, not by the Government.

If data will be provided, is this data unlabeled or labeled (e.g., with labels being the condition of the traction motor, “Faulted” or “Nominal”)?

N/A.

If data will be provided, what is the approximate size of the dataset(s) (e.g., in the order of 10’s, 100’s, 1000’s, 10000’s of samples)?

N/A.

Are there other data sources you can refer us to for prototype development?

No; the FRA does not have other data sources to refer offerors to. 

Is a machine-learning approach to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance of interest or value?

That can be decided upon review of the offer. 

How important is real-time fault detection and diagnosis to either Phase I or Phase II development?

It is important, but not critical.

Is there an acceptable time delay for detecting and diagnosing failure modes (e.g. in the order of milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, etc.)?

No.

What specific type of trains are being targeted? Traction motor design details may differ depending on the train. 

Focus will be on freight trains.

Will the DOT provide details of previous experience with existing traction motor condition monitoring systems? This information will help identify limitations of COTS systems being used.

No; the DOT will not be providing details of previous experience with existing traction motor condition monitoring systems.

190-FR6: Automated, Drone-Based Grade Crossing Inspection

Could you explain the anticipated concept of operation for the drone? For example, do you anticipate the platform will be a long range autonomous system that is launched remotely, or something that is launched at the crossing site?

FRA expects to operate the drone in compliance with the small unmanned aircraft regulations established by the FAA (Part 107). See this link for more information: https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=20516.

What range and endurance do you anticipate will be needed for the drone?

The aircraft’s range and endurance are less important than its overall suitability for the inspection goals. If the system is proven successful at a single grade crossing, FRA expects that the range and endurance would be scalable to capture data from additional grade crossings in the area that comply with visual line of sight operating regulations. 

Are you interested in track condition as well, e.g., missing or damaged ties?

The ability to capture additional track safety-related data while inspecting the crossing is beneficial to FRA's mission, but is not a priority for this SBIR project.

What is the accuracy of measurement required for the hump geometry? It is known that many jurisdictions require a maximum drop of 1 inch per 10 feet on either side of the track, generally to 30 feet from the track on either side. Is this to +/- half an inch, a quarter inch, less?

Determining the accuracy, precision, and repeatability of the measurement system is part of the development effort. The absolute precision of any commercially available measurement system deployed on the drone is likely much greater than the precision needed to determine if the crossing is humped.

Would it be acceptable for the drone to also make use of a base station, either fixed or also itself a mobile but ground-based device, to provide reference for navigation and measurement?

A temporary reference point is acceptable.

Is the drone inspection to take place on roads with active traffic (i.e., the drone must either avoid traffic or fly high enough to ensure that it cannot interact with traffic)?

Phase I testing should be limited to controlled environments.

How long is a reasonable time to perform such a crossing evaluation?

Inspection time should as short as possible. It is likely variable depending on the characteristics of a given crossing.

Are there size/weight limits? Drones are available in a large range of sizes.

Drones, and the inspection procedures, should be compliant with FAA Part 107 regulations.

Can temporary reference marks or targets be placed by the users?

Yes.

Based off of previous inspection systems which use LIDAR, what should the vertical accuracy requirements be for the proof of concept drone-based system (e.g., would a point cloud with a vertical accuracy of 5 cm be acceptable for the inspection)?

Determining the accuracy, precision, and repeatability of the measurement system is part of the development effort. The absolute precision of any commercially available measurement system deployed on the drone is likely much greater than the precision needed to determine if the crossing is humped.

How much of the data processing side needs to be automated? Traditionally, at what point in the analysis of grade crossings requires the most supervision from personnel?

FRA expects fully developed solutions to be highly automated.

What is the greatest pain point involved with current grade crossing inspection methods?

The objective of this research is to develop an efficient, portable inspection system to increase the inspection rate.

How much time and money is spent on a grade crossing inspection using current methods? 

Unknown. 

Can the availability of GPS be assumed?

Yes.

Does the topic envision one drone inspecting one crossing, one drone inspecting multiple crossings, or multiple drones inspecting one crossing?

To start, one drone inspecting one crossing is envisioned.

Is there interest in automated drone recharging technology?

This is not a priority.

What sensors are/are not acceptable as part of the drone payload (so long as size/weight/power constraints are satisfied)?

This is left to the designer to decide. FRA expects the drone to operate in compliance with FAA Part 107 regulations.

What accuracy evaluation metrics are envisioned?

Determining the accuracy, precision, and repeatability of the measurement system is part of the development effort. The absolute precision of any commercially available measurement system deployed on the drone is likely much greater than the precision needed to determine if the crossing is humped.  

Can a performer count on any sensory and ground truth data to be provided for model training/evaluation?

No.

Will there be any access to grade crossing sites for data capture and evaluation?

FRA expects developers to establish access to local facilities for any testing.

190-FT1: Cost Allocation Technology for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Where in DOT does data about local matching funds reside?

FTA guidance on federal and local match requirements is found in the Circulars for Section 5307Section 5310, and Section 5311. A federal transit grant applicant should refer to Section III in each Circular to determine the match requirements and eligible local sources for the three programs because requirements for local match differ from program to program. As an example, the Section 5310 Circular 9070.1 states: “In addition, the local share may be derived from federal programs that are eligible to be expended for transportation, other than DOT programs, or from DOT’s Federal Lands Highway program. Examples of types of programs that are potential sources of local match include: employment, training, aging, medical, community services, and rehabilitation services.”

Who decides whether federal funds can be used as match for FTA programs? The answer is found in the Local Matching Funds Frequently Asked Questions: “FTA leaves the determination of whether another agency’s funding may be used for local match for FTA programs to that agency. Under the laws and regulations governing that funding, however, that funding must be eligible for use in public transportation projects.” FTA grant recipients and sub-recipients should communicate with their FTA Regional Office to determine if a particular federal-to-federal grant match is appropriate and allowable. But it is important to remember that each federal agency is different. Just because another agency’s funds can be used as match does not mean that the agency in question will approve such an arrangement. For example, it is up to the U.S. Department of Labor to determine whether DOL funds may be used for transportation projects, and which DOL funds may be eligible for use as match on transportation projects.

To learn more about the match requirements of FTA grants, visit the Grant Programs page. From there, you can click on a particular grant to read program Circulars, determine eligible projects, and match ratios.

How do local transit authorities currently track matching funds?

There is not a requirement on how the funds are tracked.

What are DOT requirements for local authorities to track matching funds?

There are no set requirements.

Regarding solicitation Section D: Innovations, Inventions, and Patents (2. Rights in Data Developed under SBIR Funding), does the royalty free licensing after four years clause mean DOT becomes the official owner of the cost-allocation application specific data or the source code for the platform which the application is built and run on top of?

No, the DOT does not become the owner of the data. After the 4 year protection period, the Government has a paid-up license to use, and to authorize others to use on its behalf, these data for Government purposes, but is relieved of all disclosure prohibitions and assumes no liability for unauthorized use of these data by third parties. To fully understand the SBIR Rights in Data, see FAR clause 52.227-20, as this clause is applicable to any U.S. DOT SBIR contract awards.

What is DOT’s definition of "trip chain segment?"

A trip is defined as one-way. Each trip is recorded with information such as: mode, destination address, and number of people on the trip, the departure and arrival times, trip vehicle miles traveled (VMT)/duration, vehicle used, and other pertinent information about the trip. Each one-way trip of the trip chain segment must be individually recorded for tracking funding eligibility. For example, a Medicaid beneficiary picked up at home and taken to a medical facility could be paid by Medicaid; on the trip home from the doctor’s, however, the trip to the mall would not – that trip segment could not be paid for with the same funding source (Medicaid). 

Is there a single pre-determined “sponsoring agency," for every trip? If not, can a single trip be charged to more than one program?

There could be many pre-determined “sponsoring agencies” who fund their clients' trips. One person could be a client of multiple “sponsoring agencies.”  The “sponsoring agency” is determined by person and trip purpose. A single trip can only be charged once, to one program. For example, consider an individual who is age 70 and a veteran. When he goes to the congregate meal site, the Area Agency on Aging funds the trip; when he goes to the Veterans Medical Center (VAMC) the VAMC funds the trip. Other potential funders might be the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that funds patients to get to and from appointments at their FQHC, the Adult Day Center and the Senior Center both fund rides for older adults to get to and from their centers, etc.

Does non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) cover medical transport of military personnel?

NEMT includes Veterans, but is not intended to cover medical transport of military personnel while on active duty. 

Does the FTA view a standard approach such as the full-cost accounting framework outlined in the TCRP Report 144 as a viable option to increase coordination amongst funding sources and transportation service providers? If not, does the FTA have some other proposed solution to mitigate complexities associated with differing financial accounting systems across funding sources? 

Yes, the FTA's views a standard approach such as the full-cost accounting framework outlined in the TCRP Report 144 as a viable option to increase coordination amongst funding sources and transportation service providers.

190-NH1: Automated Driving Systems (ADS) Test Data Interface

Is this Phase I effort applicable for FMVSS 124, 126, and 135 only?

It is applicable to all FMVSS where it may be relevant. FMVSS 124, 126, and 135 are the obvious ones, but 105 and others may need this technology as well. A generic approach is preferred. 

Does (or could) the project scope include developing recommendations for standards requiring vehicle manufacturers to produce middleware facilitating communications between the proposed Test Data Interface and the vehicle’s ADS? Or must the proposed Test Data Interface be capable of interfacing with an arbitrary ADS without requiring any special design considerations on the part of the manufacturer?

Yes, the project scope could include developing recommendations for a middleware solution. 

Are there any requirements for the form of the Test Data Interface? E.g., may it include hardware components as well as a software component?

There are no requirements for the form, it may consist of hardware and/or software components.

Are there any classes and/or types of vehicles that are NOT candidates for use with the proposed Test Data Interface? Alternately, are there any vehicle classes/types that are a special focus of this work?

No, there are no classes that are NOT candidates nor are there focused vehicle classes/types.

At what level of access must the system be shielded against nefarious actions? Are attackers with physical access to the test equipment a consideration, or is the intention to shield only against remote action?

We have not specified the level of access a system must be shielded from nefarious action. That can be proposed. Given physical access and extended time, many systems are potentially vulnerable. 

Regarding the first bullet point of the expected Phase I outcomes, would it be possible to more clearly define “market demand” in this context, especially given that it is likely to be highly dependent on regulatory requirements (for testing of vehicles including ADS) set by the U.S. DOT?

Regardless of regulatory requirements, we think market demand still exists for safety assurance testing. Vehicles still need to be positioned and moved around test facilities. Additionally, loading vehicles from manufacturing plants, dealerships, storage, service, etc., may require similar capabilities. 

Do the “output responses” measured by the proposed Test Data Interface consist only of measurements reported by the ADS, or is there a requirement of independent verification of certain vehicle states? For example, a vehicle’s ADS may report a certain road wheel angle, but it is possible to foresee a circumstance where that does not accurately reflect the actual road wheel angle of the vehicle. Might (or must) a proposed Test Data Interface include any additional sensors or other methods to verify these physical vehicle states?

A proposed test data interface could include additional sensors or methods that are believed to be needed. However, this is not required. Others may choose to use their own measurement systems for verification. 

Related to the question above, is part of the intention of the Test Data Interface to partially supplant certain traditional measurement methods used in FMVSS testing with measured outputs of the vehicle’s ADS, or is the vision that all traditional measurements of the vehicle state will continue to be performed as they are currently? 

No, the intent is not to partially supplement traditional measurements. The intent is more for control of the vehicle.  

190-PH1: Inline-Inspection (ILI) Tool for Detecting Coating Defects/Disbondment of Coating

There are some commercial products currently on the market that appear to meet the solicitation requirements. Are there certain areas where you are looking for improvements upon existing solutions (i.e. precision/resolution, test time, power consumption, etc)? Could you clarify the unmet needs further to explain where the commercial products fall short in the pipeline inspection application?

The Government has cancelled this topic; it is no longer a part of this solicitation. Please refer to Amendment 0001

Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2019