Improving Road Safety through Intelligent Transportation Systems: Q&A with Shailen Bhatt

Shailen Bhatt, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)

Coming out of co-locating our Annual Meeting, where we announced our partnership with ITS America, and as we prepare for our joint presence at the 25th ITS World Congress, we sat down with ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt to learn more about the power of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to improve road safety.

Q: How is ITS America helping to make our roads safer?

A: Thanks for that question. At ITS America, we advance the research and deployment of intelligent transportation technologies to save lives, improve mobility, promote sustainability, and increase efficiency and productivity.

In 2016, 37,461 people were lost on U.S. roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. This represents a 5.6% increase over 2015, which also jumped 7.2% from the year before and is the largest back-to-back percentage increase in fatalities since the 1963-1965 reporting period. Connected and automated vehicle technologies are the best tools in our toolbox to drastically reduce and potentially eliminate the 94 percent of crashes caused by human error.

At ITS America, we?re committed to deploying innovative technologies to revitalize our infrastructure and modernize our outmoded transportation system. Next generation driver-vehicle interfaces, such as artificial intelligence-based natural language processing, can ensure drivers can retrieve critical traffic, weather, navigation, and dispatch information they need, without distracting from the critical task of driving. Advanced traffic management infrastructure, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications, and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian communications can smooth traffic flow as well as save lives, reduce pollution, and crashes.

Our members must redouble their efforts to ensure any deployments of automated vehicles are safe. Private sector innovators along with research organizations must work with government agencies to safeguard the public.

Q: It?s clear that ITS America is committed to making it a reality for ITS to save lives, improve mobility, and promote sustainability. What?s new in your work fostering this innovation?

A: One of ITS America?s most unique assets is its membership, which is made up of state and local public agencies, private companies, and research and academic institutions that are working together to bring new technology from our nation?s test labs to our roads.

For example, at our recent Annual Meeting in Detroit, we unveiled demonstrations, such as V2I safety applications and vehicle ride-a-longs, to bring together stakeholders across the industry to discuss, debate, and advise on the trends and future of intelligent mobility. GM showcased V2I safety applications such as red-light violation warning and reduced speed/work zone warning. Another on-road demo featured Iteris, Siemens and Sirius XM teaming up to show V2I as well as V2V applications, such as Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Emergency Electronic Brake Light (EEBL).

In addition, we recently partnered with Together for Safer Roads to support early-stage companies that are creating new, safer road usage patterns and options, improving the safety outcomes of commercial drivers and operators, or focusing on putting people and their road vulnerabilities at the forefront of product design.

Q: How is ITS America working to bring together the private sector and public sector to make cities smarter and safer?

A: As cities become the focus of a sustainable tomorrow, the concept of Smart City, as fueled by information and communication technologies, has gained tremendous popularity across the world. But, there are current gaps in knowledge regarding the concept of Smart City, and how smart, safe mobility is a part of the initiative.

Recently, we worked with our partners to produce the Smart Cities and Integrated Mobility: A White Paper to help fill these gaps for cities and ITS organizations. One key finding from the Paper is Smart City initiatives typically deploy eight types of smart mobility strategies?transportation electrification, smart parking, smart vehicular traffic management, smart transit, smart active mobility, integrated and seamless mobility, connected & shared mobility, and public & business engagement.

In addition, ITS America recognizes that our nation?s transportation system faces increasing cybersecurity risks as vehicles and infrastructure become more connected. Given this, we recently held an executive forum on Cybersecurity Risk and Future of Mobility that brought together key stakeholders for a discussion on ways to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks faced by those developing, operating, or managing intelligent mobility technologies on our nation?s roads. The insights gained from this event will serve as a starting point to help guide the work of our reconstituted Cybersecurity Task Force.

Q: Lastly, why are you driven to save lives?

A: For the 10 years I have been a senior leader in U.S. transportation, approximately 325,000 people have died on our roadways. That is staggering ? and unacceptable. I am passionate about the work I do because we can save lives and make people?s lives better. I have two young daughters, and I want their future to be transformed by intelligent mobility. I want a future in which cars don?t crash ? one that is safer, greener and smarter.