The final symposium in this year’s series was “Navigating the Future of Personal Transportation” and featured speakers Quincy Allen, district engineer for TXDOT; Emil Frankel, the interim president for the Eno Center for Transportation; Ken Laberteaux, senior principal scientist for the Toyota Research Institute-North America; and Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Gail Delaughter, transportation reporter for Houston Public Media, moderated the event.
Quincy Allen said his number one priority when thinking about Houston transportation is safety. 500 people are killed each year in Houston area in traffic accidents, he said. He thinks self-driving cars could be safer, if they implement features that regulate the speed of the car, and cut down fatalities.
Emil Frankel said the public transit sector hasn't caught up to technology to make it easier for riders. He focused on policy being a road block to new transportation developments such as the autonomous vehicle. The implementation of new systems could be slowed down by established agencies and law enforcement.
Ken Laberteaux pointed out some practical aspects of a transition to the future of transportation, such as battery technology lagging behind and causing electric cars to be expensive. Also, while most people enjoy low gas prices, higher prices will likely cause more incentive to find alternatives.
“We have for a long time built an economy around the notion that transportation is cheap,” Laberteaux said. “Fundamental massive change . . . will come with some friction, and not just because people love oil,” he said. Laberteaux mentioned that people are split about autonomous vehicles and whether they should be fully operated without human interaction.
Joshua Schank encourages fewer cars on the road and says providing parking near bus stops, etc. is in some ways counter-productive. Ridesharing businesses like Uber and Lyft take business from the private sector, which could hurt people who can't afford those options, Schank says. Since the public sector is slow to change, the private sector should be involved.
"There's just too many people" for everyone to own their own car, Joshua Schank says.
In conjunction with the final symposium, UH Energy hosted and art showcase, where students submitted their ideas for the transportation future via artwork they created. They were judged on criteria of adherence to theme, aesthetics and originality.
The student who won the judges’ favor was Matt Caballero with his piece, "Layering the Machine: Creating Urban Energy Concentrations with New Forms of Energy." "Bull-E" by Shadman Qaisar was nominated as the audience favorite. Himanshu Jha received “honorable mention” for his piece, "Optimistic Hope of Free Energy."
Quincy D. Allen, P.E., District Engineer, Houston District Texas Department of Transportation
Emil H. Frankel, Interim President and CEO at the Eno Center for Transportation
Ken Laberteaux, Senior Principal Scientist for the Toyota Research Institute-North America
Joshua L. Schank, Chief Innovation Officer at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Gail Delaughter, Transportation Reporter, Houston Public Media
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