The Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Annual Meeting is consistently one of the most important events on the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) industry calendar. And for many reasons, this year's meeting, which took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., was one of the most engaging in the event's 98-year history.
The spotlight theme this year was Transportation for a Smart, Sustainable, and Equitable Future. And in addition to this central thread, the TRB Executive Committee identified three hot topics to focus on: transformational technologies, resilience and sustainability, and transportation and public health.
With the event now behind us, we managed to catch a select group of Iteris smart transportation leaders as they were dashing between meetings and technical sessions to find out their biggest takeaways from this year's event, as well as some predictions for next year:
What is your biggest takeaway from TRB 2019?
Anita Vandervalk, P.E., PMP, associate vice president, Transportation Systems
There was a very interesting dynamic this year – almost a push-pull that left you with a sense of how fast technology is evolving and that research is still playing catch-up. There is a need to foster better connections between new tech for transportation – including connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), and the public sector – in terms of what is available and how all parties can leverage it.
Glenn Havinoviski, vice president, Transportation Systems
I think the transportation community has recognized that shared mobility services, automated vehicles and related connectivity are the future of mobility, and that there need to be alternative means of funding for both new and refurbished transportation facilities, as well as ongoing system operations.There is also a recognition that most of this is not going to happen tomorrow, and while the federal government is providing some useful guidance, ultimately it will be partnerships between the private and public sector (notably state and local agencies) that will see these changes through over the next 10 to 20 years.
John Lower, associate vice president, Roadway Sensors
The Highway Traffic Monitoring Committee's focus on technological advancements that can help the industry gain efficiencies in data collection, processing, storage and dissemination was very promising. This is a huge opportunity for both advanced video detection and software-as-a-service platforms.
Shayan Khoshmagham, data scientist, Transportation Systems
One of the hottest topics surrounding CAV deployments was the battle to convince the industry about which communication technology makes the most sense. Some experts brought up the idea of co-existence between dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), however, I personally believe that DSRC should remain the major communication technology in future CAV environments.
What surprised you at TRB 2019?
In the poster session I was in, where we addressed Caltrans’ statewide guidance on ITS architecture and planning activities in support of future technology projects, I was surprised to see a significant number of young researchers and students who are keenly interested in vehicle connectivity and automation, but who have not necessarily been familiar with the work in ITS over the past 20-30 years. Providing them a perspective of how we’ve gotten to where we are today was very rewarding.
Having attended the TRB annual meeting for many years now, I am pleased to say that in 2019 you get the strong sense that data governance has become mainstream within many departments of transportation (DOTs) – its time has finally come!
The Highway Performance Monitoring System, which is re-evaluated about every 10 years, is opening up to alternative sources incorporating data from non-state DOT sources. Turning video-outfitted intersections that are owned and operated by cities into permanent count stations for state DOTs is a viable and near-term opportunity.
What new trends were uncovered at TRB 2019 that you think people should pay attention to?
Scaling up applications of cloud, big data processing and visualization to process the wealth of untapped data for creating and capturing stakeholder value. This is the essence of innovation.
I think many of the smart city concepts related to integrating healthcare, utility and freight delivery services with vehicle automation and connectivity are going to be of major interest in the near term. The role of UAVs (aka drones) for managing operations and supporting freight delivery, among other functions, is also another exciting area.
Favorite moment of TRB 2019:
There was a fantastic session on the upcoming Forum on Preparing for Automated Vehicles and Shared Mobility, which addressed several questions related to future transportation services, with panelists from the private, public and research sectors all making their predictions for the future. It was very well attended and gave us all some things we need to think about in terms of our role in advancing transportation.
I love the rush of meetings, dinners and connecting with literally hundreds of contacts. But my favorite moment was a thoughtful philosophical discussion with my colleagues in the Data for Decision Making and Performance Measures Committee about how the explosion of real-time data will change the way planning is carried out and decisions are made in DOTs.
Being asked by Federal Highway Administration to join their quarterly Traffic Talks webinar to discuss our video detection and counting platform.
Predictions for what the main focus will be at TRB 2020?
In 2020, I expect to see even more positioning of smaller start-ups, with innovative new players entering the space. I also expect we will see the TRB playing a far more active role in synthesis and peer exchanges.
Next year will be the TRB's 99th annual meeting but the organization itself will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in existence, so I'm sure there will be a higher-level emphasis on how far we have come since 1920 in all aspects of transportation, as well as where we are going. I expect it to be a larger-scale event than ever, but also with some very specific focus areas, including automation, connectivity, multimodalism, freight operations, and how we pay for transportation services and programs.
How artificial intelligence will increasingly enable edge devices to perform their own local learning, bypassing the cloud and providing edge device intelligence for a more personalized experience, with enhanced “contextual awareness” for CAVs.
About the Author:
David Sadeghi is digital marketing manager at Iteris.