After an impressive 48-year career in the traffic management industry, our Vice President of Mobility Consulting Solutions Peter Yauch is retiring. He’ll be transitioning into the role of emeritus, in which capacity he will continue to support Iteris on a limited number of strategic projects.
Pete’s story with Iteris began in October 2012, but prior to his tenure here, Pete held pivotal positions throughout the industry, including Director of Public Works and Transportation for Pinellas County, Florida; City Traffic Engineer for the City of Clearwater; District Signal Systems and Safety Engineer in Tampa Bay and more. His impact on the industry and the transportation landscape, particularly in Florida, is undeniable.
I sat down with Pete to hear more about his journey in this industry and get his wisdom on a number of topics. Hear about his beginnings in transportation, what’s changed since he started, his thoughts on where the industry is going and more below.
Tell me about your start in the industry. How did you end up here?
My start in the industry probably goes back to when I was three years old. I had an interest in traffic signals all the way back then—it has always been an interest of mine. I would do school science projects and they always had something to do with traffic. So through that, I got to know the people at the City of Saint Petersburg where I grew up and they taught me a few things—I even made a mock up signal with spare parts they gave me.
It was natural that whatever I did in college, it would be transportation related. So, I went to Georgia Tech for my schooling, and got a bachelor’s and master’s degree there in civil engineering. While I was there, I was very fortunate to meet a professor that would ultimately be an incredible mentor to me, Dr. Peter Parsonson. His specialty was signalization as well, and I became his assistant, which opened tons of doors for me. After graduation, I was planning on working for the City of Atlanta, who I had worked with lots while in school, but a hiring freeze there changed my plans and I went into consulting work at a national firm.
What did the job at that consulting firm look like? Did you enjoy it?
I did. At that time, computerized traffic signal control was a new thing and so we were busy designing and installing demonstration signal systems around the country. We worked on a number of them nationally—one that comes to mind is the Los Angeles ATSAC system before the Olympics in 1984, so we were sort of on leading edge of computer systems way back when. Back then these computers would fill the whole building, nowadays the power of those computers could fit on your smartphone.
I can imagine you’ve seen things evolve quite a bit over your career—what would you consider the biggest change you’ve seen?
Definitely technology and equipment. When I first started, early controller equipment was electromechanical… motors and gears and cam shafts, pretty unsophisticated stuff. Now essentially every intersection has a small computer running the signals.
What has been your favorite part of your time in the industry and at Iteris?
Being able to design and see things implemented in the field. It gives you positive feedback on what you're capable of doing and it’s always so satisfying to design something and see it working in the field. As far as my time at Iteris, that did adjust a bit. As I advanced in my career I wasn't out in the field as much, and so my favorite part of that time was being able to work with the younger engineers and providing them with insights and mentorship. That’s been really rewarding.
What will you be doing in your new role as VP Emeritus at Iteris?
I'll continue to be available for support and to work on special projects, but with the benefit of being able to take a week or two and go somewhere on vacation! After 48 years it would be hard to just walk away and not do anything, so I'm happy to still be representing the company—going to trade shows and conferences and continuing to have a role in in helping guide the future.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m very proud of some honors that I've received through our professional organization Institute of Transportation Engineers. I've been fortunate to serve on the board of directors both in Florida and internationally and received a number of very nice awards from them.
(Note from the interviewer: Pete didn’t want to brag, but we will for him! Here are just a few of the awards he’s received in his distinguished career: John R. Freeman Transportation Professional of the Year Award, Nathan H. “Nat” Rambo Fellowship Award, Sherwood H. “Woody” Hiller Distinguished Service Award, Burton W. Marsh Award for Distinguished Service)
What impact do you think Iteris—and the industry as a whole—is making?
Both Iteris and the industry as a whole are making a very favorable impact in terms of mobility and safety. Over the years our focus on safety has definitely been increasing… it used to be all about moving vehicles, now we're addressing not just vehicles, but pedestrians and bicyclists and vulnerable road users, so I’m happy to say safety is a key element of what we're working on today.
I’m also proud to see a large focus on professional development work. We do a number of training courses at Iteris for those that are already in the industry. Technology is advancing so quickly, which is great, and we're trying to train folks on how to use the new technology so we can continue to innovate and improve things like safety and sustainability.
What do you see changing or impacting the industry the most in the future?
Two areas, both of them technology related: first is connected and autonomous vehicles. A vehicle that drives itself is going to be a big step in the future, right? And the second is artificial intelligence and the advanced computing power that will help expand the role of AI in transportation.
What are you excited about in the future of this space?
Seeing the overall impact of focusing more on safety. We have approximately 40,000 fatalities a year on United States highways and with programs like Vision Zero we're working to reduce those numbers a lot—hopefully we can be very successful in that as the years go by.
Why do you think it's a good time to be in the transportation industry?
It's an exciting time to be in the industry because of all the technology advancements that are being made. It’s no longer the status quo for running traffic signals as we've done for the past 40 years, we're going to have a lot more intelligence in our signal systems. Better communications with vehicles, better understanding of where road users are coming from and where they’re going, so it’s a really interesting time to be here with lots of opportunity.
What advice would you give people starting out in the industry?
Identify a mentor. Work with someone who's got some experience and let them guide you through your major decisions as you go through your career. I was fortunate to have that when I was young in my career and recently, I've been a mentor to a number of different individuals, who I’m proud to say seem well on their way to success.
If you enjoyed hearing from Pete in this interview, check out some of the blogs he’s worked on:
About the Author:
Breanna Wallace is manager of public relations and social media at Iteris.