ITS America is 25 years old. That alone is an accomplishment, but wait, there’s more. This June in Pittsburgh we had a big cake to celebrate the 25th Annual Meeting. Okay, so the anniversary was actually another day, but let’s not quibble. It marks an important milestone, the welcoming of a new CEO and a fascinating confluence of the three streams of the industry.
Let me address that last point. For many years we saw the ITS business as having three components: infrastructure, automotive and consumer products. They all pretty much developed along their own paths with little interaction. The systems integrators developed traffic management, signal and traveler information systems for the DOTs. The car companies introduced new onboard technology as they developed it and the consumer products folks sold things like GPS mapping aftermarket devices. At conferences we had the car companies in one place, all showing up together or not. We had the consumer products folks participating on occasion, but they were much more interested in the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
That left the field to the system integrators to develop for the state DOTs. The systems were standalone and did not make much use of industry standards. Today, that core Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) constituency is still acquiring systems but also integrating third-party data
from consumer products companies, and coming to grips with autonomous and connected vehicles. It makes for an altogether more exciting industry.
At this recent annual meeting, Google announced that autonomous cars will go on sale in four years’ time. It’s not important if you believe it; what’s important is that a consumer software company made an automotive announcement at ITS America. That’s big time news and not a new version of adaptive control.
Into this enters a new CEO of ITSA, Regina Hopper. This is the first time since its founding that a CEO has started from
a position of organizational strength. I’m not telling any secrets if I say that when Jim Costentino left, when John Collins
left, and when Neil Schuster left, the field of replacement candidates was not huge. After Scott Belcher left, ITSA received more than 200 resumés – many more than in any previous search.
Out of that impressive field, Regina Hopper emerged. She takes over an organization with strength in all three constituencies in a country that increasingly looks to technology to solve problems. The DOT that depends on only asphalt is long gone, but can ITSA maintain and grow a leadership position? The point at which ideas become conventional wisdom is the trickiest to manage and a small organization has even larger challenges. I wish ITSA well and hope that Regina’s tenure brings it to even greater influence in our country.