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IRF: How has your experience leading a DOT shaped your views on road sector innovations?
SM: DOT’s want to be considered thought leaders and want to use innovation, however a challenge faced by a DOT and other public agencies is they can’t afford to lead in innovation. Approvals to secure funding for new and emerging technology — from road equipment to design software is difficult, and technology changes faster than funding cycles. Public agencies must rely on industry to be flexible, share the risks, and help them be innovative. Partnerships more now than ever are important to transportation innovation.
IRF: Which are the areas where you see the most potential for productivity growth and societal benefits?
SM: Improving the journey for people when getting to their destinations. The options for modes and tools will be critical in making journeys safe and productive, both of which have tremendous benefit to society. Innovations and technology in the modes and tools, doesn’t just mean connected vehicles, but also can be upgraded sign sheeting for greater visibility or better striping and smoother pavement. It can be improved wireless on trains or more plugs at airports – all to improve the experience. Apps to provide directions and advise on routes, modes and times of travel are also tools to use in decision making. Any opportunity to help people get from A to B safely and with a good experience is an opportunity to make life better – less cranky people.
IRF: What do you perceive as the main value of a global conference focused on innovation in the road sector?
SM: A global conference is an exchange of ideas. All attendees have a story or idea and when shared, prompts other buried stories and new ideas which result in seeds of innovation or thoughts getting started. There are many different ways to approach an object – none wrong or right, just different, and the opportunity to step into another’s view enables us to see a perspective which will enhance our own.