It’s Time We Had The Talk: INTERSECT17 in full swing

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways November 16, 2017 06:05

It’s Time We Had The Talk: INTERSECT17 in full swing


Despite only being two-thirds completed, it’s surely not too premature a statement to say that INTERSECT17, the innovative transportation event hosted by GRIDSMART Technologies at their Knoxville, Tennessee headquarters, has been the transport event of the year. Supremely well organised, tightly focused while at the same time being occasionally unpredictable, with an unrivalled social program (and that’s still with a dinner among the tigers at Knoxville Zoo on Thursday), a day of service at a local elementary school, and presentations from a hugely varied cast of speakers that included an astronaut,  a former state Governor, a former US transportation secretary and, to cap an at-times incendiary second day, the most moving speech you will ever hear at an ITS event, bar none.

Genial host Bill Malkes, GRIDSMART’s founder and CEO, welcomed the attendees and speakers to the GRIDSMART Auditorium, appropriately a building that was once a church, and former US secretary of transportation Mary Peters set the ball rolling with a keynote address that looked back over her career in the industry and in particular on the last decade of ITS innovations. It was like visiting old friends as the 250 attendees listened intently to her often wistful stories of IVHS, GuideStar, ISTEA, TEA21.

Former Governor of Virginia and US Senator George Allen rounded off day one with an impassioned look at competition and leadership in an AV future, citing a mantra of “make dust or eat dust” as a key driver in why America has become such a dominant, creative force in the information and transportation technology sectors. Virginia, he said, was the Silicon Dominion and to make the biggest difference possible everyone in the room owed it to themselves to make more noise and simply “let the people know what you’re doing”. Gov Allen insisted that this is Generation AV and “there’s no better ambassador than you”, urging attendees to “evangalise and educate” in what was a fiercely patriotic 50 minutes. “Keep America winning” was his final demand.

Day two began with the introduction of the INTERSECT17 future of transportation competition winners. Pupils from Lonsdale Elementary School were invited to draw or paint their visions of how we will be mobile in the years to come and the results were enlightening and entertaining in equal measure. The year group winners’ prize was to have breakfast at GRIDSMART with four-time Space Shuttle mission veteran Dr Don Thomas (pictured above). It wasn’t just the children that were excited to meet an astronaut as the queue to be photographed with one of the nicest, most accommodating people you could ever wish to meet (as well as being an astronaut) was testament to.

Dr Thomas’s presentation, featuring some incredible photographs from his four missions, was genuinely the most interesting talk I’ve ever witnessed at an ITS event and his easy-going manner combined with his candid tale of how his path to space was anything but simple made for a fascinating hour in the company of an ordinary man who did something quite extraordinary. Thomas topped off his presentation with a look at how autonomous vehicles have a crucial role to play in future space travel, including the much-vaunted Mars mission, predicted to be less than 25 years away from being a reality.

I was about to find out as Bill Malkes, Mobile Comply founder Elaina Farnsworth and I revealed the results of the GRIDSMART/Thinking Highwas/ATI21 401K Jobs Survey. A full news story on the survey will appear tomorrow as the attention in this news story deserves to be given to Teddy Vagias, CEO of the Mason Harriman Group, a company that made its name returning retired executives into the government employment pool. It wasn’t, however, Vagias’ business acumen that had got him invited to Knoxville. In June 2016 Vagias’ son Leo was killed in a car accident and the native of New Jersey has made it his life’s mission to ensure that no parent has to go through the torture that he and his wife have gone through since receiving that fateful phone call on Father’s Day last day. It was tough to watch – just hours after being thoroughly entertained by Don Thomas’s jovially delivered stories of achievement, the audience were listening to the harrowing tale of Leo Vagias’ untimely death, a tragic incident that was just the start of the family’s unfathomable journey. Struggling to maintain his composure throughout, Vagias implored those in attendance, the vast majority of whom were parents, to do everything they could to ensure a safer future. We owe it to him to do just that.

More tomorrow.

 

LISTEN TO SOME OF THE SOUNDS OF INTERSECT17: IT’S TIME WE HAD THE TALK

Alain Kornhauser, Princeton Faculty
https://soundcloud.com/kevin-borras-593901350/alain-kornhauser-talks-av-timelines-with-kevin-borras

Elaina Farnsworth, Mobile Comply
https://soundcloud.com/kevin-borras-593901350/elaina-farnsworths-vision-for-the-mobility-enabled-workforce

Patrick Son, NOCoE
https://soundcloud.com/kevin-borras-593901350/patrick-son-managing-director-of-nocoe

Paul Brubaker, ATI21
https://soundcloud.com/kevin-borras-593901350/paul-brubaker-ceo-of-ati21

 

 

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways November 16, 2017 06:05