Momentum: Issue #78

August 16, 2021

The Time is Now to Harness Technology for Better Outcomes

Perspective is important. Often, however, we can lose sight of big picture perspective as we get caught up in the here and now of our daily lives. As I prepare to step down as President and CEO of ITS America, I can’t help but reflect about what an exciting time it is for our industry. I would put it up there with how all those involved in the space program in the 1960s felt when they went to work every day – whether they were engineers, mission control, secretaries, or astronauts.  

The time is now to make transformational change that will result in the positive outcomes we have been talking about – saving lives and making our transportation system more sustainable and equitable. We have the opportunity, given the massive infrastructure investment just passed by the Senate. President Biden has set a goal of reducing transportation industry emissions by 50 percent by the end of the decade and recently called for 50 percent of all new car sales vehicles to be electric by that time as well. We have had a goal of toward zero deaths, even though we have trended the wrong way in the past several years, and we have coalesced around the need for more equity in transportation.

The opportunity – the common thread for those of us who work in transportation – is to harness technology to achieve these goals. We can eliminate the scourge of roadway deaths by deploying technologies that exist today to prevent crashes. Let this sink in – we have the ability to stop vehicles from hitting pedestrians and cyclists. I am passionate about the opportunity to keep fighting to fully deploy lifesaving V2X technologies.

Technology is at the intersection of modernizing our electric grid and deploying electric vehicles at scale. We can dramatically reduce emissions to improve air quality and fight against climate change, which has become even more urgent in the wake of the U.N.’s most recent devastating ‘code red’ report.

Deploying technologies will also help with inequities. Blacks were killed in traffic crashes at a rate almost 25 percent higher than white people in recent years, and Black pedestrians were killed at a rate twice as high. Childhood asthma rates are higher in low-income neighborhoods that are adjacent to highways – residents of a mostly Black community near I-10 in Los Angeles have twice the state’s average rate of childhood asthma. Connected vehicles technologies will make roads safer and reduce emissions by reducing congestion. Automated vehicles will help deliver groceries in food deserts and bring mobility and more independence to people with disabilities and older adults. The possibilities are truly endless.  

While I am sad about leaving ITS America, I am so excited about the work the association and our members have done and will do moving forward. I am not straying far – I am even more excited about joining one of our members to continue this work on a global scale.

When I led two departments of transportation, I always said the purpose of a DOT was to save lives and make peoples’ lives better. I am grateful that my time at ITS America allowed me to use that same approach, and I look forward to continuing to work toward the same goals as I begin my next chapter.