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Midyear Meeting general session explores connected technology with Audi and Ford executives

Executives with Ford and Audi emphasized the importance of collaboration among key stakeholders as connected and autonomous vehicle technology advances.

Tony Reinhart, director of Government Relations for Ford Motor Company, and Brad Stertz, director of Audi Government Affairs and co-founder and chairman of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), spoke at this morning’s general session at ATSSA’s Midyear Meeting, which runs through Friday.

After opening remarks, Reinhart and Stertz were joined by ATSSA Board Chair Greg Driskell and ATSSA Vice President of Engagement Nate Smith for a panel that took questions from the group assembled in Kansas City, Mo., for the Midyear Meeting.

Reinhart shared that Ford is testing autonomous vehicles in Michigan, California, Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C. He said they are currently mapping communities with computers that he said “learn” to recognize changing dynamics in pavement markings, signs and other variables.

He said the present focus is on developing rideshare and delivery and that the most important thing is to “stripe roads really well.”

He wants to see federal regulation of the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) field and said various stakeholders are needed for the process to move forward effectively.

“Connectivity is going to be dependent on all of us working together,” Reinhart said.

Stertz echoed that sentiment, saying, “we have a lot of common interests.”

Audi has been working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) on technology projects to make active work zones safer and is also now working with officials in Alpharetta, Ga., and the Fulton County schools to use CV2X technology with school buses and to create school zone alerts. 

Boone Massey of TRP Construction, below, asks a question during the panel discussion.

He said it’s time to focus on the benefits and applications of connected technology to safety for vulnerable road users (VRUs).

Stertz noted that children have been killed trying to get to their school buses and he envisions the ability to communicate with vehicles so cars slow as they approach bus stops.

Driskell acknowledged the importance of collaboration and noted the value of working with ATSSA’s members, many of whom can quickly make adjustments in what they are doing to save auto makers time and money.

The 2021 Midyear Meeting started Tuesday and concludes Friday. This year’s meeting broke attendance records, Vice President of Education and Technical Services Donna Clark said. It also had the largest turnout for an ATSS Foundation fundraiser Tuesday night. This year’s Midyear Meeting is being held in hybrid fashion with in-person attendees meeting at the Loews Kansas City Hotel in Missouri.

On Wednesday, ATSSA held its first Roadway Worker Protection Council and an organizational meeting for the new Women in Roadway Safety Council. More than two dozen people took part in that meeting, including a handful of men.

One of the men noted that he was interested because he has daughters. One of the women said she’s interested in mentoring.

ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner originated the idea for the Women in Roadway Safety Council and believes it will formalize a way for women to network, learn from one another and develop leadership skills in the male-dominated roadway worker infrastructure industry.

Midyear wraps up Friday with the Operating Committee.

The next big ATSSA event is the 52nd Annual Convention & Traffic Expo in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 11-15. Registration is now open and a limited number of booth spaces are still available. For full details, Expo.ATSSA.com.

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