Working Together to Advance Technology as a Transportation Solution

Guest column by Paul Brubaker, CEO and President of the Alliance for Transportation Innovation

Hello from Washington D.C. and the Alliance for Transportation Innovation (ATI21). As one of America’s leading Intelligent Transportation (ITS) trade associations, we’re excited to be working with Bill Malkes and the entire GRIDSMART team.

That’s not a platitude. In our experience, GRIDSMART is one of the most progressive companies in Intelligent Transportation. Right now, ITS is a chess match with likely winners thinking two or three moves ahead. I’ve learned from numerous conversations, GRIDSMART is thinking five.

For the leadership team, it’s not just about designing products that provide solutions for today. It’s also about understanding how technology can work to improve, even save lives well into the future. That’s our connection with GRIDSMART.  At ATI21, we are committed to advancing and accelerating the path to the future of transportation, to reducing gridlock – both in government and on America’s roads.

Like GRIDSMART, we share the view that technology is a life-saver – simple to say but not easy to convince a skeptical public. The crash economy is huge and the fatality numbers are staggering. Each year, approximately 40,000 people die in traffic crashes on America’s roads and that number is trending up. The federal government estimates that 94% of all crashes feature some level of driver error. Crashes are the number one killer of young people and the simple fact is that humans are bad drivers. That may sound like a gross and possibly insensitive overgeneralization but it isn’t.

Human drivers are slower than computers to recognize and adapt to changing, even dangerous road situations. Computers never get tired or stressed. They don’t get distracted, they never text and drive and they never have one too many at the bar on the way home. Many companies have made the leap into self-driving technologies and like computers themselves, the arguments for autonomous driving are extremely logical but unfortunately, logic doesn’t always win arguments. Surveys over the last few years have consistently demonstrated that the average driver is reluctant to give up control. That conversation is our beach head and it will take a steady drumbeat of effective communication, forward progress and recognition of key moments to make the transition. GRIDSMART is one of the companies that will play a part in acceptance of technology as a transportation solution. Its traffic and intersection management devices are adaptable and will play a significant role as America’s transportation system evolves. But as I mentioned earlier in this column, GRIDSMART plays chess well and Bill and the team are consistently considering other factors, factors we value in a partner, factors that don’t necessarily fit into the day to day operations of the company. They’re considering access, how everyone in our society regardless of stature or ability can benefit from automated mobility. They’re considering how to guarantee privacy and cybersecurity and they’re considering how to partner with the smartest innovators, the wisest thought leaders and the strongest businesses to move the conversation forward.

So yes, at ATI21, we’re proud to have GRIDMSART as founding member. No platitudes here. With all the important things we have to do during this very important time in the evolution of transportation technology, we just don’t have time for them.

Paul Brubaker is the President and CEO of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation (

He previously served as Administrator of U.S. DOT’s Research, Innovation and Technology Administration (RITA).


Stay Ahead of the Line

If you’ve ever watched Olympic swimming on television, you’ve probably seen the moving line superimposed on your TV, indicating world-record pace. Stay ahead of that line for glory. Fall behind and risk obscurity. In 2017, that’s exactly where we are in traffic management and transportation.

Our industry is evolving faster than it has in the 60-years since President Eisenhower oversaw the creation of the interstate highway system. The population in the United States then was 169 million people. Today the population is approaching 330 million, each person with a need and a hunger to be mobile. But that hunger doesn’t translate to an appetite to build roads. Even if there was a political will, there’s just no room in many places.

The answer is technology.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are more than a quarter century old but the pace of innovation and deployment has accelerated dramatically over the last few years. Traditional ITS players are being joined by technology startups who see opportunity to integrate their ideas and products into transportation’s future. It’s no surprise that Uber, Tesla and even Amazon are moving into this space. These are companies that embrace evolution – even revolution and disruption. They’re hungry and they don’t play by traditional rules.

Frankly, it would be easy to follow the path to the future, but I believe we have to be better than that. At GRIDSMART, we’re working hard and smart. We would rather help design the future than watch it evolve in spite of us. Society is years, not decades away from the Internet of Everything (IOE), a world in which integrated technology will build efficiencies and conveniences while working to manage most aspects of our daily lives. That’s why our GRIDSMART traffic management products are interoperable, connected and completely updateable to address changing needs. For example, earlier this year, we launched STREETSMART. It’s a tiny device with software developed by Acyclica that uses a vehicle’s own Wi-Fi signals to measure speed, direction and origin destination. We believe STREETSMART will quickly become a critical tool to lessen congestion and with its data-archiving system, help steer communities to improve traffic patterns and eliminate gridlock.

But we’re not just doing things for ourselves. We’re trying to help lift the entire industry.

This November 13-16, for example, under the banner of “It’s time we had the talk,” we’ll convene INTERSECT17, expanding on previous INTERSECT gatherings and opening the discussion to industry and government leaders, even to our direct competitors. I attend a lot of transportation, traffic and technology conferences and many of them have the same ideas, contentions and discussions that get repeated like mantras. At INTERSECT17, we plan to drive the discussion forward looking at the present, the transition and our arrival to the future. We’ll take on the tough issues and try to draw a clear picture of how we can all get from here to there.

As many of you know, our guiding pillars at GRIDSMART are, “Simple. Flexible. Transparent.” As we evolve, we’ll continue to apply those principles to everything we do, simply because they work. Like the Olympic swimmer whose path to success is a simple, repeatable stroke, flexible enough to evolve and transparent without gimmicks or tricks, we’ll constantly work to stay ahead of the line on the TV Screen. Unlike the swimmer, we’ll bring as many with us as we can.


GRIDSMART was born into eternal and unchangeable Principles: Simple. Flexible. Transparent. GRIDSMART starts every day advancing these Principles in all parts of our business on the road to our vision of Improving One Billion Lives Through Technology. So now, as we proudly roll-out our new STREETSMART, please know that this is a product built and supported entirely in the GRIDSMART Way.

We love our partners at Acyclica, who innovated and commercialized the powerful engine, but to be GRIDSMART, the STREETSMART product had more than a few additional hurdles to clear. STREETSMART hardware is 100% GRIDSMART, designed with the toughness and grit of its big brother GS2. Built from the ground up in collaboration with a prominent design firm, STREETSMART not only has rock-solid components and guts like GS2, he even looks a bit like his older brother.

STREETSMART comes with a Simple and Flexible GRIDSMART user interface (UI). We promise to keep making the UI easier every day, just like GS2. Of course, the heart of STREETSMART is the pioneering Acyclica engine. Same thoroughbred, just gets draped and quality tested the GRIDSMART Way with the kind of UI you expect from GRIDSMART.

Need support?  That is also 100% delivered in the GRIDSMART Way.

And of course, STREETSMART will get better and better because the GRIDSMART Way is to never quit innovating, never quit pushing the limits of Simple. Flexible. Transparent. The GRIDSMART Way is investment in our customers through continuous improvement. It is truly quality over quantity on our line card. We invest in you. I personally promise this. You have my word, GRIDSMART never quits on Simple. Flexible. Transparent.

If you even have a slight suspicion we are falling on our Principles, email and it will show up unfiltered and transparent on my desktop and the desktop of the entire Executive Committee. You will have our attention; that is a rock-solid pledge.

So, give STREETSMART a ride. The hardware is solid. It is Flexible to use with or without GS2. The UI is your friend. The UI is Simple to navigate. And of course, the pricing is Transparent. It is one price all included. No TBD fees or worse yet, none of those infamous user credits or tokens. What you see is what you get. Just a solid product built to help you do what you do so well every day.

Mismatched Bookends? Not So Fast

At INTERSECT16, I defined what the GRIDSMART Man is when we recognized Tim Smith with J.O. Herbert Co., Inc. as the Ultimate GRIDSMART Man for 2016.

The GRIDSMART Man is not always a bloke, the GRIDSMART Man might be a doyenne, because the essence of the GRIDSMART Man is a conviction, a principle, a strong belief in doing things right and fair. The GRIDSMART Man wears a solemn gaze as he tackles his work. An unfailing look of quiet confidence pronouncing competence never leaves his face. He carries an aura that does not need validation or approval from anybody, because he is in control and his air makes that clear. He understands technology, but only appreciates it when it actually does something of value.

The GRIDSMART Man works hard and independent. He values demanding responsibilities, but he appreciates the Simple, he pursues the Flexible, he knows the best means to get’er done. The GRIDSMART Man boldly punches his own trail, because he knows where to go and how to get there. Not a follower, but a leader by standard. He recognizes there is more than one way, so he demands the best way. He is as Transparent as the ocean is wide. What you see is really what you get. He is simply a good man with good values.

Our first GRIDSMART Man awards went to Amanda Brown and Tim Kinnon with Mr. Tim Smith being named the “Ultimate GRIDSMART Man.”

Today, I add Kori Lautner from Great Schools Partnership in Knoxville, TN to this illustrious society. Kori does unequivocally amazing things for a school at risk.  Kori works for Lonsdale Elementary, where 88% of the students are minorities. 78% of these children live in poverty (national average is an unacceptable 25%). Kori and her equally devoted peers do amazing things to serve these children who go through the day with indomitable spirit and huge smiles despite their situation. Kori makes a lot of these smiles happen.

So, Kori and Tim Smith as GRIDSMART Man mismatched bookends. Tim is a strong, powerful looking man, who can honestly scare you if you don’t know what a great, compassionate and intelligent man he is. Kori is petite with a perpetual smile. They were born in generations separated by some classic rock in the middle.

On the exterior they look a lot different. But real GRIDSMART Men know that a cover does not define a book. These mismatched bookends both aggressively defend their customers (Lonsdale Families and Virginia DOT’s). Neither Tim nor Kori will ever let their customers get a bad deal or have a bad day if they can help it. They go to whatever measures necessary to protect customers, even if protecting the customers might hurt them. Both Kori and Tim never say “it is good enough.” They always work hard and steady to make it better and better and better.

We say the GRIDSMART Man “boldly punches his own trail, because he knows where to go and how to get there.” That describes our supposedly mismatched bookends. Tim and Kori understand what needs to happen in their worlds and they will get you there and do it the right way and with integrity. The GRIDSMART Man is transparent. There is nothing phony or superficial about either of these bookends. They are honest about what they are doing, about what they want and about how they take care of business.  They are also honestly good people. They never seek the spotlight, both are humble and get their satisfaction from a job very well done.

At GRIDSMART, one of our core principles is “always do what is right.” Tim and Kori are part of our inspiration for that. Doing right seeks the same and GRIDSMART is drawn to these two.

So, an NFL Linebacker looking dude and a high school Homecoming Queen looking Doyenne on the outside, GRIDSMART Men on the inside. Not so different after all. Bookends with a lot of Principles in between. At GRIDSMART, we believe that Principles make all the difference in the world. In the end, Principles is what we all bank on. Thank You Tim and Kori for being GRIDSMART Men. We salute you and we appreciate you both more than you will ever know.

What is at the Heart of a Smart City?

Some say connectivity is the heart of a Smart City; others say government and many point to technology as the heart of a Smart City. The very wise say that citizens are the heart of a Smart City. I agree with the latter, but if I think about the first thing a Smart City would break down without, I turn to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Don’t get me wrong-without power there will be chaos and without IoT, the circular economy of a Smart City becomes a linear economy almost instantly. Nevertheless, without the safe movement of people, goods and services, all the above gets outright dangerous quickly.

First, let’s define what a Smart City will encompass. The Smart Cities Council “envisions a world where digital technology and intelligent design have been harnessed to create smart, sustainable cities with high-quality living and high-quality jobs.” The Smart City concept consists of three concepts including:

  • Livability to provide clean, healthy living conditions without pollution and congestion;
  • Workability allows cities to provide the enabling infrastructure — energy, connectivity, computing, essential services — to compete globally for high-quality jobs;
  • and Sustainability provides services without stealing from future generations.

Overall, building a Smart City aims to provide seamless connectivity, improved systems delivery, and a better, more equitable quality of life for citizens. This is why the Smart City Pavilion at the ITS World Congress in Montreal is so intriguing to me. The Smart Cities Pavilion will be the epicenter of the ITS World Congress in Montréal and showcase how cities across the globe are using technology to create their vision of next generation integrated mobility solutions in urban settings.

The Smart City Pavilion will focus on how Intelligent Transportation is the heart of Smart Cities’ critical infrastructure, including traffic management, roadways, rail, parking, bike share, transit, car share, traveler information, connected and autonomous vehicles and integrated mobility.

You see, Intelligent Transportation is what makes a difference in the daily life of commuters by moving them faster, smarter and more efficiently. It is also how we reduce traffic fatalities for drivers, bikers and pedestrians. Intelligent Transportation also provides the framework for freight to move vital food and supplies, which are essential for the world’s citizens. Intelligent Transportation keeps us all moving daily, without realizing it’s taking place.

The Smart City Pavilion at the ITS World Congress in Montreal will be a real life demonstration of successful ITS deployments that work together to deploy Smart Cities. It offers us the chance to see Smart Cities united by common ITS threads sharing what they are doing. Smart Cities from multiple continents will present and display and allow attendees to better understand the challenges, opportunities and technologies that interplay in a Smart City. The Smart City Pavilion will also introduce sponsors and vendors outside of the traditional ITS players that also contribute to this world. Every man and his dog has a Smart City show these days, but how many have a show with the common thread of arguably the most indispensable piece of the puzzle?

ITS World Congress in Montreal is October 29 to November 2, 2017. Register here to attend the event or better yet, learn about joining us as a Smart City Pavilion Sponsor here.