Pacific Southwest Region 9 UTC

Local Students Access Industry Insights on Autonomous Vehicles

Monday, July 9, 2018 - 8:45pm

By Rui (Rae) Zhang, USC Price School MPL, Transportation, 2018

On Thursday, May 31, 2018, local transportation students were sponsored to attend a WTS-LA breakfast panel event to learn industry experts’ insights on connected and autonomous vehicles (AV). The panel presented a comprehensive coverage of views on the impacts of AV on future transportation developments, featuring leaders of multiple sectors including a traditional planning and engineering consulting firm seeking opportunities in the new era, multi-level public sectors seeking to connect AV with existing infrastructure, a traffic signal consulting firm exploring AV communications, and an auto manufacturer combining cutting-edge technologies and innovative automobiles. Speakers included Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager; Alan Clelland, Intelight, Inc. SVP; Veronica Siranosian, AECOM Ventures Director; Nadia Marquez, Cruise Autonomation Senior Manager for U.S. Government Relations. The panel was moderated by Blair Schlecter, Beverley Hills Chamber of Commerce Director of economic Development and Government Affairs.

“We are very grateful for the support of sponsors Arthur Schurr, John Livzey, Emilie Gino, and sponsor firms Mott Macdonald and Stantec whose generosity made the students’ attendance possible,” said METRANS Associate Director, Dr. Victoria Deguzman.  “Events like these bring such valuable cutting edge, real world perspectives to their education and help to prepare them for their upcoming transportation careers.”

PSR METRANS Attendees at WTS-LA Breakfast Panel

The panelists shared their thoughts on the potential impacts on transportation, with the a focus on safety, employment, and infrastructure adaption. Panel participants shared their belief that a large number of new jobs would be created - for example, AV system operation monitoring coordinators to replace the traditional driver positions. Regarding safety issues, the concern of women’s safety attracted special attention from woman leaders Siranosian, Marquez and Reynolds. They noted that gender-friendly protection systems should be taken into consideration in the planning decisions for the transition to AV. The panelists also noted the significance of the public sector attitudes towards infrastructural restructuring to embrace the AV era, which requires states, cities, and DOTs to be open and cooperative when it comes to the significant experimental period.

Irene Chen, second-year USC Price student benefited greatly from attending. “WTS events are great opportunities for students to learn the updates of the industry and to think about how the experts view the problems critically,” she commented.  “I’ve enjoyed the networking and communication with the professionals a lot, and definitely encourage other students to get involved in such awesome events!”

About the Author: Rui Zhang

Rui (Rae) Zhang is a new graduate of USC Master of Planning program with transportation concentration. She is passionate about data analysis, GIS applications, and financial studies of transit and freight projects. Her portfolio can be found at www.ruizhangportfolio.com and she can be reached at zhan305@usc.edu