Randell Iwasaki, Executive Director of Contra Costa Transportation Authority

IRF: What is the role of local authorities in supporting the deployment of next?

Randell Iwasaki: We don’t often realize it, but the impacts of innovation are usually felt at the local level first with deployments often months or years ahead of regulation – and that’s why it is important for local authorities to educate themselves and take a leading role in the deployment of next-generation transportation technology in their communities.
In addition to putting Contra Costa on the map for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping to co-found GoMentum Station was a way for our agency’s commissioners and staff to keep their finger on the pulse of innovative transportation research. CCTA firmly believes in looking beyond transportation solutions that attempt to build our way out of congestion. Instead, we’re evaluating and developing our long-range plans to incorporate current and future technology applications. CCTA’s vision for the future centers on the use of emerging technologies and public-private partnerships to meet current and future transportation demands and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Contra Costa County. To make that happen, we need to be on the cutting edge of transportation technology.

As a government agency, we are well aware of the reputation government has in terms of being able to deploy solutions. And I think what most private companies don’t realize is that there is no reward for innovating in government – failing forward is generally not an option. If you fail, you’re probably going to lose your job, so the safest bet for many government entities is to not try anything new, to not rock the boat. Luckily, CCTA has a board that supports big ideas from staff. By giving private companies a big sandbox to create, innovate, and test the next generation of transportation technology, we at CCTA have had a front-row seat to what’s being imagined for the future. We’ve also been able to help private companies partner with willing cities and towns in our county to test their technology in the public sphere. Our agency is really kind of like a matchmaker for the private sector, when they’re ready to publicly deploy, we help them find an engaged, willing partner in our region so they don’t have to spend the capital or effort to find that one perfect stretch of pavement or intersection or business park to test their product.

I have seen a lot change during my 37-year career in transportation, but the recent advances in transportation technology hold so much promise: to be able to eliminate or drastically reduce traffic fatalities; to help us achieve cleaner air for future generations; to provide mobility options for our most vulnerable populations like seniors and persons with disabilities; and to better connect us to the things that matter – that it’s such an exciting time to work in transportation. That’s why I’m so passionate about redefining mobility, and why I’m looking forward to attending and learning from all the speakers and attendees at the IRF Global R2T Road Conference.

IRF Global R2T Conference & Exhibition: November 19-22, 2019

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