InTrans / Aug 30, 2019
Mid-Continent Symposium highlights latest research
The key takeaway from this year’s Mid-Continent Transportation Research Symposium is that now is a great time to be a transportation engineer.
“When people ask what you do, what your focus is on, don’t just share the technical and the small, tell them, ‘I work every day to make mobility better for everybody. I give freedom. I spread joy,’ and ask yourself how many people are lucky enough to say that,” said Iowa Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe in introductory remarks during the two-day symposium.
The 2019 Mid-Continent Transportation Research Symposium held recently at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames, IA, attracted more than 250 attendees interested in hearing the latest in transportation research.
Keynote speaker Bo Wang, a mobility analytics manager at Global Data Insight & Analytics (GDIA) organization at Ford Motor Company, offered a nuanced take on mobility.
Paraphrasing Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” Wang said, “It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. It is the age of autonomous driving. It is the age of connected vehicles. It is the epoch of densification. It is the epoch of big data. … Welcome to the dawn of the mobility revolution.”
While the first speakers highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing mobility in transportation, the symposium continued its practice of offering different tracts on safety, sustainability, various technologies, and innovation, as well as mobility. A poster presentation at the end of the first day also offered opportunities to learn more about current research.
The bridging of the issues facing the transportation industry is part of what makes the biennial symposium so appealing to Mark Bush, senior program officer with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, who has attended the past four conferences and served as a moderator this year.
“It’s a very good overall compendium of all that’s facing our nation today,” Bush said.
This year’s conference also brought in experts from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to discuss the focus areas of the current Every Day Counts initiative (EDC-5). In addition to his presentation on the EDC-5 initiative Advanced Geotechnical Methods in Exploration, FHWA’s Ben Rivers also offered a demonstration on it in between sessions using a HoloLens visualization tool.
Though the presentations often focused on the exciting advances and opportunities in transportation, Jonathan Wood, a safety analytics data scientist with the Ford Motor Company, also highlighted the challenges facing the industry in his talk during the opening session.
“We still have all these factors that are influencing crashes, and it really has not changed over all this time,” Wood said. “Our vehicle design has changed, the way we design roads has changed … our training for people, what they have to do to get driver’s licenses, policies, these have all changed, yet if you look at this (chart), this has not changed much.”
The presentations from the symposium are available here.