ITS America 2016 Allows for Entrepreneurs and Innovation to Collide

Originally appeared on Fast Lane, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Transportation
by Regina Hopper, President & CEO, ITS America

its america

(L to R) Sabrina Sussman, ITS America, VP World Congress and a Strategic Forums; Quin Garcia, Autotech; Bill Malkes, GRIDSMART; Yale  Zhang, co-founder of SPLT (Splitting Fares); Chris Thomas, Fontinalis Partners; Duncan Williams, Greentech Capitol
Photo credit Bruce Boyajian

Are you an entrepreneur who lives and breathes innovation? Do you have the next big idea that will change the way we move people and goods across the country?  Or have you discovered the best way to use technology to more effectively manage traffic and improve our commutes to the office? Well, so do the competitors in ITS America’s “The Intelligent Pitch.”

All week ITS America 2016 San Jose has brought together the best of transportation, tech, innovation, the public and private sectors, research and academia.Today, the best and brightest innovators gathered for “The Intelligent Pitch,” transportation’s very own version of Shark Tank.

As part of “The Intelligent Pitch” entrepreneurs had the opportunity to earn their seat at the table in the new age of intelligent transportation. During this special session, four competing entrepreneurs and startups delivered a fast-paced business pitch to a panel of venture capitalist and investor judges, including Bill Malkes, CEO and Cofounder of Gridsmart; Chris Thomas, Co-founder and partner of Fontinalis; Duncan Williams, Partner at Greentech; and moderated by Quin Garcia, AutoTech.

Last year’s Intelligent Pitch winner, Eyes Only Systems, wowed the judges with a presentation of technology that enables cross-jurisdictional personnel management- built especially for crisis response. They painted a future where agencies can deploy resources and people together against a common goal- keeping our public safe.

This year, Yale Zhang, co-founder of SPLT (Splitting Fares) took home the grand prize. This winning proposal seeks to provide customers with a simple and easy alternative to normal commuting, by helping commuters easily find and arrange carpools.

As the U.S. Department of Transportation celebrates Innovation Month, I can think of no greater way to ensure that we continue to innovate in the transportation field than by fostering today’s entrepreneurs and intelligent transportation startups. This is critical to promoting safety, sustainability and the economic development of our country.

Congrats to all of the competitors and thank you to all those who came to San Jose for ITS America 2016. I look forward to the strides we will make in the creation of a next generation transportation network in 2017.

Forward Momentum: What’s Next in Smart Transportation

Contra Costa County, Calif., Transportation Authority Executive Director Randy Iwasaki talks about the agency piloting first-of-their kind technologies that could signal what’s on the smart transportation horizon. Iwasaki serves on the GRIDSMART Board of Directors.

Originally appeared in Government Technology


Randy Iwasaki, executive director, Contra Costa County, Calif., Transportation Authority

Among public agency heads, Randy Iwasaki is in an enviable position. In the technology-rich and densely populated San Francisco Bay Area, voters twice (1988 and 2004) approved a half-cent sales tax earmarked for transportation, which funds the work of the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority (CCTA). Iwasaki has served as CCTA’s executive director since 2010. The most recent ballot measure is estimated to provide about $2 billion during its 30-year lifespan.

Those funds, coupled with significant support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, are being put to work to develop an autonomous vehicle test center, a smart corridor on Interstate 80 and other smart mobility projects aimed at maximizing the efficiency of Bay Area roadways. Iwasaki talked to Public CIO about his plans for a subscription-based autonomous transportation system, its role in a new 5G-based City 5.0 concept and the importance of data-driven transit programming.

Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, and Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, coined the term “City 3.0,” a connected city using technology to reduce the cost of services that they provide their citizens. We’re all getting strapped for cash, and we’re trying to provide better service. There’s the old saying that instantaneous gratification isn’t soon enough now because of all the technology that we have at our fingertips. And so they’re trying to figure out ways to provide service through this connected city concept.

We’re working on a subscription-based autonomous transportation system. And when you talk vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, you have to have a communication backbone. We’re developing a shared autonomous vehicle. It’s going to be connected to an operation center, hopefully within that 5G technology of 2020. That’s when 5G is promised, and the hallmark of this City 5.0 concept is that the connectivity may not be Wi-Fi — it may be your cellular service. We have great hopes for this new 5G wireless technology coming our way: lower latency, fewer dropped calls, wider coverage and hopefully lower costs.

When you take a subscription-based autonomous transportation system and overlay it within that connectivity of the city, you’re going to get better information. All these autonomous vehicles are connected to the infrastructure and are going to be giving you information as an owner. Any transportation system owner will tell you that if the money is drying up, you want to make better decisions with your money. And you need data to make well informed decisions; it just isn’t a guessing process.

In the old days, we’d host a town hall at a library. We’d announce it in the newspaper, and we’d get 40 people that would come out to tell us what their transportation needs are. You haven’t talked to anybody else because that’s all that shows up. So what we’ve done now is we’ve used social media. When you log into our website, you engage your customer by giving them an allocation of 10 CoCo [Contra Costa] coins, and they make a budgetary decision on what they want to invest their 10 coins in. We aggregate all the taxpayers that have engaged in our process and determine if it is reflective of the direction that we’re headed. And then we also do telephone town halls where we robocall and live-call people to get into that telephone town hall, and then we answer questions from that live audience for over an hour.

A lot of people are saying, “I would love to take a bus, but I just can’t get there. It’s too far away, I’m getting too old or I can’t walk that far. Or when I drive my car to take BART, the parking lots are full, so I have to drive to San Francisco.” What we’re trying to do is come up with a subscription-based shared autonomous vehicle feeder system. We just signed an exclusive agreement with a company for North America called EasyMile — it’s a joint venture between Ligier Motors and Robosoft, a software company. Ligier Motors makes the car. This EZ10 is being rolled out in five other countries, and we have the exclusive agreement for North America. We’re going to be the first to roll out a shared autonomous vehicle to provide that first- and last-mile connectivity.


We’ve already ordered two vehicles, and hopefully we’re going to get them in July. Then we’ll start doing all the testing protocols for software/hardware, sensor interface, make sure the maps are correct and then run it throughout GoMentum Station [the autonomous vehicle test site in Concord, Calif., pictured at left] to make sure it follows the map, it knows where it is, it can work at night and it can work during the day. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs to approve the self-driving vehicle, we’ll have them do that, and then once we’re satisfied we’re going to roll it out at Bishop Ranch [a 585-acre business park in Contra Costa County] sometime early in 2017 if all goes well. And then we’ll run it in two parking lots.

It’s the worst commute in the Bay Area, westbound, going to the Bay Bridge and San Francisco. It’s a mess. You can’t widen that roadway because you’ve got water on the right and big housing complexes on the left. So how do you make the traffic work better and how do you make the transportation system more effective? The idea was to put together a technology-based project to help provide enough information ahead of time to smooth out the roadway. It’s ultimately going to be metered onramps and gantries [overhead signage] across the roadways with big red X’s. If you’re in lane #2 and there’s an accident ahead, you’ll see a big red X, so you can get off the freeway or change lanes. People that decide to change lanes will merge over and go around the blockage. Or if you see two or three X’s, you try to get off the freeway. And then wayfinding signs on local roads tell you when to get back on I-80 to get around that incident. Signal lights will also change on local roads to help flush the traffic out and put it back on I-80 after the incident.

They are now testing those electronic signs — they call it the “burn-in period.” The turn-on date is July 2016. We like this idea so much, we made an application to the U.S. DOT and were one of 13 grantees in the U.S. for State Route 4, which is going to be the next smart corridor project in the Bay Area.

When I first started at CCTA about five years ago, Assemblymember Susan Bonilla [she was supervisor at the time], asked me to go out and take a look at the Concord Naval Weapons Station to find a way to create smart jobs for the community when it was deeded over to the city of Concord. It’s got the infrastructure in place, it’s got a mini-city, it’s got a long straightaway where you can get up to higher speeds and test vehicles. And the only way I know how to create smart jobs is to create a test center.

So we worked with the U.S. Navy and the city, as well as Stantec, our consultant, and got a license and agreement to test autonomous and connected vehicles at the Naval Weapons Station. We have a license to test on 2,100 of the 5,000 acres. There are twin tunnels that are 1,400 feet long, 16 feet in diameter, you’ve got under crossings, bridges, guardrail, signs, curved gutter sidewalk, buildings — a perfect place to test. We signed Honda as our first car manufacturer partner, and we also have agreements with a couple other car manufacturers. There’s a lot of other vendors that also want to start testing their signal lights, controllers and car-to-infrastructure communication.


It depends on how autonomous vehicle technology matures. The way I look at the infrastructure, the roadways will be the same. You may be using shoulders; you may be using more of the pavement than you used to or you may have dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles.

You’ll have better, more consistent striping because that’s one of the things that autonomous vehicles guide off of. In California we use Botts’ dots, the raised pavement markers. In Kansas where it snows, they can’t have raised pavement markers because the snowplows will knock those right off after the first snow.

The maps may be smarter, meaning that speed zones are embedded in the maps so the vehicle knows how fast it’s supposed to go, like when you come to a curve warning, where you have the yellow signs that say 45 mph when you come off the off-ramp. Autonomous vehicles have base maps, and they use GPS to coordinate where they are in the world with that base map — it would have speed zones and signing in it, so you won’t have to sign that off-ramp. The car knows that it’s a 45 mph off-ramp and it’s going to go that fast, but there’s no sign to knock down. So the owners are saving money, there’s not all this tort because the sign is down and somebody didn’t see it and they went 55 and got in an accident. All those kinds of things may get cleaned up with autonomous vehicles.

I also see fewer tolling gantries because you can provide information using wireless communication through your infotainment system or navigation unit in your car.

About 41,000 people were killed on our roadways and highways in the U.S. in 2015, and about 60,000 people died in the Vietnam War over a decade and people used to protest that war. In a year and a half, you lose more people on the roadways and highways in this country than you did in the Vietnam War. We have to do something, and as cars get more automated, you can eliminate about 80 to 90 percent of the causes of accidents — human error. If you could automate that using technology, just the safety piece of it alone would help guarantee that your friends and family get home safely to have dinner with you. That’s really what gets to folks in my business, because everybody in transportation, their top priority is safety, saving people’s lives.

Vision Zero Demo at ITS America San Jose

GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc. and Wave Mobile Solutions will host a DSRC V2X Vision Zero demo during ITS America San Jose 2016. Vision Zero will demonstrate how intelligent technology can be utilized to prevent traffic incidents, improve safety for vehicles and pedestrians, and identify problematic locations. 

The GRIDSMART iconic Bell Camera and a Wave Mobile Solutions FiberWire 8011 DSRC RSU will be installed at the corner of San Carlos and Market, directly in front of the Marriott Hotel. The GRIDSMART Bell Camera delivers a horizon to horizon view and utilizes novel tracking algorithms to track vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. The Wave Mobile Solutions FiberWire 8011 DSRC Road Side Unit (RSU) is based on the latest DSRC security standards and supports a higher capacity turbo mode for applications such as video transmission. 

Vision Zero will utilize the San Jose VTA Lightrail. As the light rail approaches Market Street, upon detection of any of the following events by the GRIDSMART camera, the Wave Mobile Solutions DSRC RSU will send out DSRC basic safety messages, alerting the Wave Mobile Solutions DSRC OBU equipped light rail and DSRC OBU equipped vehicles of:

   pedestrians or bicycles in the cross walk

   vehicle in left hand turn lane next to approaching light rail

   bikes in the bike lane

Vision Zero will be held at the following times:

Monday, June 13: 12, 2, 4, 6 pm

Tuesday, June 14: 12, 2, 4 pm

Wednesday, June 15: 10 am, 12, 1:45 pm

To participate in Vision Zero, please meet at the GRIDSMART booth (507) 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time or email

ITS America 2016 San Jose to Exceed Expectations

ITS America 2016 San Jose kicks off on June 12 to June 16 at the McEnery Convention Center in California under the theme “Integrated Mobility. Transportation Redefined.” Each day highlights a different area of intelligent transportation solutions, including Wheels & Things, Infrastructure of Things and Show Me The Money! The keynote speakers will be Seval Oz, CEO of Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems; Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation; and Frank DiGiammarino, general manager of US, State and Local Government at Amazon Web Services.

ITS America 2016 will also feature 80-plus sessions and live demonstrations, as well as new products and technologies from more than 200 exhibitors. Other highlights include two Supersessions: “Technology Driven By The C-Suite” and “US DOT Modal Administrators.” Taking advantage of being in Silicon Valley, there will also be a competition called “The Intelligent Pitch” for startups. State DOT directors will share their insights on ITS deployment, and the US DOT will present one public workshop on Sunday and two others on Thursday. Thursday will also feature a series of tours showing the implementation of intelligent transportation systems in the San Jose region. Register for the event here

GRIDSMART will be located at booth 507.

The Truth Behind Traffic Data

On January 1 of this year, we introduced what we think is is the most thought-out traffic control system in the industry, the GS2 Processor. We also introduced our Performance Modules.  Put the two together, and you’ve got a highly reliable system that syncs all of your intersection data directly to GRIDSMART Cloud, letting you access it any time you want without having to manually download it to an external drive at every site.

Our new approach stands to change the way people manage traffic forever, with accumulated data that will help GRIDSMART identify and learn from trends, better our product, and offer pay-as-you-go flexibility for the future. The Performance Modules will provide customers with never-before seen insight into the behavior of an intersection. With that in mind, you might be asking yourself, “What about data security? Where is my data going? What about consumer privacy?”

First, the information we’re collecting is just plain old traffic data like counts, movements, and light states, so no specific vehicle information is ever recorded.  Because our system is wireless, we never need to touch your internal network; it’s always safe and under your control. This is done on our end at no charge to you.

In the spirit of Transparency, GRIDSMART also has access to the data through the GRIDSMART Cloud. Aggregated data gathered from intersections in 46 States and 22 countries around the world. Big picture data that we will use to make products that will be even more useful to you in the future.

We also want that information to be available for the greater good of global infrastructure. Real estate developers, planners, municipalities, and businesses can use this data to plan smarter, build more efficiently and someday, use our products to improve everyone’s way of life.

While we’d love for you to invest in the Performance and Performance Plus data modules today, you don’t have to – no pressure. The data is there regardless, but only unlocked at your request. You will always have full, unfettered access to your data and it will be securely backed up. That’s our promise. Maintaining your privacy is as important to us as maintaining our company’s integrity.

We encourage you to contact us directly if you feel our latest approach violates our core values of Simple, Flexible, and Transparent. We want to hear your concerns, your troubles, and your doubts so we can put them to rest for good.