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 (ATI21.org).
He previously served as Administrator of U.S. DOT’s Research, Innovation and Technology Administration (RITA).