Panels discuss innovations and safety challenges during Convention’s first general session

Two industry awards announced as annual Convention starts its second week

Automated vehicles will be mainstream in the next decade, members of an Innovation Panel predicted today during the first general session of ATSSA’s 51st Annual Convention & Traffic Expo.

Timothy Drake, vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs at ITS America, said he expected trucking fleets and public transportation would be the first to take that step and be in place in the 2030s. With that in mind, he said planning needs to take place now within jurisdictions across the country and state departments of transportation (DOTs).

Nazila Roofigari-Esfahan, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, agreed with Drake but said she hoped it wouldn’t take place before people are ready for it. She said both infrastructure and individuals need to be prepared for that shift in transportation.

Doug Campbell, president of the Automotive Safety Council, presented a slide indicating that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will steadily increase and that the highly automated vehicle market is expected to steadily increase and account for about 10% of the global vehicle market by 2030.

The Innovation Panel was one part of today’s general session at ATSSA’s 2021 Convention & Traffic Expo. The session kicked off with a welcome from Board Chair Greg Driskell and the State of the Association Report by ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner. That was followed by a State of the Industry panel and announcement of two industry awards.

Paul Carlson, chief technology officer with Road Infrastructure Inc., received ATSSA’s Industry Achievement Award. The award is the Association’s highest honor and given to an ATSSA member who has made significant contributions to ATSSA and left a mark on the roadway safety infrastructure industry.

David Kuniega, chief chemist with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), received the Mark of Excellence Award. The award is given to an ATSSA member who has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of roadway safety infrastructure through improved pavement markings.

The morning also included an announcement that PPG, which recently acquired Ennis-Flint, had made the largest single donation to the ATSS Foundation in its history.

The State of the Industry Panel, pictued above, included Carlson (lower right), Brandye Hendrickson (top row center), deputy director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); David Feise Jr. (top row right), president of Arrive Alive Traffic Control; and Eric Perry (lower left), ATSSA’s director of Innovation & Technical Services.

They discussed a wide range of topics, several of which addressed issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Freise said he expects masks will continue to be part of everyday life for roadway workers because of the benefits of limiting the spread of germs and that he will maintain a small supply of items such as hand sanitizer. Carlson said the roadway safety industry is gaining additional insights as details are analyzed regarding the trend that speed and fatalities increased when few vehicles were on the roads. He said those incidents were most prevalent in urban areas and that future telecommuting trends would have a bearing on the best answers.

Hendrickson said she was hopeful the time was right for a timely reauthorization of the highway bill and that roadway infrastructure is key to the long-term health of the economy.

Perry and Carlson were pleased to see new technologies being evaluated as new federal standards are being reviewed.

As the session, attendees were reminded to cast a vote for the best band in ATSSA’s Got Talent: Battle of the Bands edition. The winner will be announced Wednesday, which includes another general session.

Wednesday’s general session includes keynote speaker Chad Hymas, a Government Relations Panel, a presentation on The Foundation, and the winner of the National Safety Award.

It’s not too late to register to be part of the events today through Thursday, which include MUTCD chats, the Circle of Innovation and many education sessions.

Convention attendees have access to recordings of all sessions for 60 days from the event’s start.

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