Momentum Issue #1
Feature Article: Shailen Bhatt Discusses Automation with Senate Democrats
Before the Senate recessed for the Labor Day holiday, ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt briefed the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) about automation and the transformation that is happening in transportation technology.
DPCC Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) invited Bhatt for a discussion during one of its weekly lunch meetings, which are held in the Capitol’s historic LBJ Room just across from the Senate chamber.
“I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Capitol Hill and in several state capitals, but it was truly an honor to be invited to speak to this group of senators – and in such an impressive setting,” Bhatt said.
New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg also participated in the discussion. NYCDOT is a member of ITS America. Bhatt spoke about the passion for his work and that the common thread running through all his positions as a transportation leader has been saving lives. “In all my positions, safety has always been paramount,” he said. “The number one problem I’ve always grappled with has been traffic fatalities.”
Earlier this summer, Bhatt testified – along with ITS America members NYCDOT, Wyoming DOT, and VTTI - before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a hearing on innovation and infrastructure. On September 5th, he will testify before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about how ITS America members are deploying innovative intelligent transportation projects across the country. His message to Congress continues to be that technology is the best tool in our tool box to reduce the more than 90 percent of crashes caused by human error.
“I was grateful not just for the opportunity to talk about automation, but also that the DPCC is interested in learning more about automation as it relates to transportation,” Bhatt said, “because it represents a transformative moment for our country.”
At the DPCC lunch, he recounted a story that happened when he spoke this spring at the Beijing Auto Forum, in which a government official made clear China’s goal was to dominate the automotive manufacturing and information technology sectors in the next decade.
“We must be leaders in this space if we want the United States to continue as the model for transformative infrastructure and technology,” Bhatt said.
“The bottom line is about safety,” he continued. “We cannot lose sight of our goal to prevent future tragedies and save more lives.”
The DPCC, formerly known as the Democratic Policy Committee, has served as an advisory board to the Democratic Leadership and facilitates communication among Senate Democrats.
Steve Ingracia, Nebraska DOT
Name: Steve Ingracia
Title: Deputy Director, Technology and Strategic Planning
Company: Nebraska DOT
Short Job description/Role Responsibility: I am responsible for setting technology strategy for the DOT. I'm also responsible for the supervision of the CFO, CTO, and CSO, and their respective DOT divisions.
Current or previous #ITS Project: My most interesting project to date was adapting industrial controls hardware that is typically used in the manufacturing industries to an automated parking system for Omaha’s arena.
Accomplishments: I spent the first 25 years of my career in private consulting, creating value for my clients in the space where infrastructure meets technology. I have wide experience in transportation, but also water purification, wastewater treatment, power generation, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
What’s the future of #ITS look like to you? I believe that automation and electrification of the fleet, combined with shared mobility, will radically change the transportation industry, and will create a seismic shift in our culture. It is our responsibility as DOT leadership to look around the corner, see what’s coming, and react quickly – allowing us to spend scarce funds wisely. We need to understand the facilities and services that people want – the highway is not our customer, the people of our state are our customers.
Hobbies: Cooking, Coffee Roasting, Whiskey Collecting.
Family: Married 25 years with 5 children, ages 8 to 21.
Favorite place to travel: I enjoy traveling to new places – anywhere with interesting restaurants. I have been in 45 of 50 states.
First car you drove?: 1976 Chevy Nova.
If you weren’t working in the transportation industry you would: Run a non-profit to improve the quality of school lunches.
The above articles are selections from a full issue of Momentum. the member newsletter of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. Full issues of Momentum are emailed to ITS America membership twice monthly.
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