When Mike Noblett's team at ITS America began organising the 15th World Congress three years ago they could never have predicted how the event would coincide with the gravest threat ever to face the US automotive industry.
The news on TV and in the papers, and the talk in the New York bars and delis, is all about the dire financial state of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, and whether the American taxpayer should bail them out to a tune of US$25 billion – or leave them to slide into bankruptcy.
But while the media and the population across the nation wonder what will be decided about the Big 3 automakers, the delegates, speakers and exhibitors who have been streaming into the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, seem to be on a different planet.
Instead of sharing fevered opinions, they've been displaying an eager confidence. They would appear to believe that, at just this moment in history, the tipping point is arriving for the ITS sector.
Is it simply mass hysteria? I've been attending technology industry gatherings for 25 years and there is always a buzz in the air. It's a party and everyone is looking forward to a good time.
But there is more to this feelgood factor than hopeful expectations - and it seems to be based on political cunning. The current US transportation bill expires in January and Congress must re-authorise its successor, which will then be in place for up to six years.
The ITS extravaganza is the perfect shop window at the ideal time to win hearts and minds and influence politicians.
Whether or not Detroit receives a massive cash injection, everyone at the show feels at least 75% certain that the hour has come for ITS to play a significant part in the nation's policies.
They have been saying time and again that the ability of ITS to cut costs, increase safety, maximise existing resources and reduce environmental damage make it a quadruple winner.
Until now that has been a complicated message to get across but, in a funny kind of way, the auto industry crisis is making the ITS argument more powerful.
Right answer at the right time
The public at large, including those all-powerful Congressmen, recognise that part of the reason why the Big 3 are in trouble is that they can't provide those same benefits sufficiently. Hence their products, cars and trucks, are less attractive than they need to be.
So ITS devotees strongly believe that their message is finally being understood by the powers that be.
It is indeed a strange time. While the great industrial behemoth that is the US auto industry teeters precariously on the edge of a financial black hole, a brightly coloured fledgling is preparing to spread its wings and soar.
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