It was only four years ago when I traveled to my first Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress, hosted in Tokyo, Japan. Back then, futurists talked about a world where cars would be driverless and the movement of people and freight would be transformed.
Fast forward to this past November, at the ITS World Congress in Montreal, and the concepts of yesterday are disrupting the way we as cities, counties, states and countries use connected technology and big data to change the transportation industry. We are in a unique place in time, at the crosshair where the physical systems (roads, infrastructure, signals and automobiles) are meeting the digital world – and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.
Each year, the ITS World Congress rotates between the European, Asian and North American markets and is a massive gathering for the exchange of ideas and innovation that moves the world. The dominance of mobility technology was prevalent on the showroom floor and on the stage. The message was clear: Michigan is a global leader. Our governor, Rick Snyder, joined the delegation representing Michigan and the leadership at the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Economic Development Corporation under a partnership that is branded “Planet M, where big ideas in mobility are born.”
As an economic developer, I see how these concepts in connected technologies are changing the face of Macomb County. Our workforce is evolving, trying to keep pace with the rapid demand of a talent pipeline not yet matured. A traffic engineer will now need skills in software, hardware and cyber physical systems to grow in this industry.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet more than 30 students from the U.S. and Canada and talk about next-generation mobility careers in cybersecurity. Organized by Mobile Comply, an ITS training company based in Sterling Heights, the conference allowed these students to travel to Montreal to immerse themselves in cybersecurity scenarios that deploy connected technology. They learned about our initiative, the Michigan Automotive and Defense Cyber Assurance Team (MADCAT) and how to engage our industry partners in these new careers. The pathway for these students has been set into motion.
This year, John Abraham from our ITS team within the Macomb County Department of Roads joined me in Montreal. His vision to make Macomb County a “connected county” is happening. Today, we have more than 150 miles of connected roadways ready for the early adopters and innovators to bring their technologies to our major thoroughfares and into our vehicles. Centered by our traffic operations center, COMTEC, we have a unique infrastructure in place with more than 220 roadside units ready to test in a live environment. As we met with industry game changers like Hitachi, Siemens and Microsoft, it was clear there are greater opportunities to partner with these technology giants.
In June 2018, ITS America will host its annual conference in Detroit, showcasing our best. Macomb County is ready.
Vicky Rad is the deputy director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.