Texas Mobility Summit: Key Takeaways on the Future of Transportation

Daniel Herrig

At the intersection of technology and transportation, the conversation is ever evolving through research and partnerships leading to better data and mobility options.

Freese and Nichols’ Stanford Lynch, Chris Bosco, and Daniel Herrig attended the third annual Texas Mobility Summit to take part in the dialogue on the state of mobility and the path forward in technology shaping the future of transportation.

The Summit, hosted by the Texas Innovation Alliance, included attendees from numerous cities and counties across the state, elected officials from all levels of government, transit and aviation providers, port and logistics authorities, university and research group representatives, and private sector players involves with the autonomous vehicle and technology sector. 

The  Summit began with Demo Day, letting participants experience new technologies in mobility, such as driverless vehicles from drive.ai and EasyMile; scooters from Bird, Blue Duck Scooters, LimeBike, and JUMP; data visualizations from Esri, INRIX, Iteris, Miovision, and others; and other emerging mobility technologies from companies like Alto, iCone, Marble, Starsky Robotics, and Waze Carpool.

Here are some major takeaways from the Summit:

Think Big

The original iPhone was released just over 10 years ago with Uber founded a couple years later. The rapid adoption of smart phones and ride hailing has disrupted mobility in urban areas since their inception. Predicting the future based on the past is not an acceptable assumption. The pace of change with technology brings a near-term future that is largely unpredictable. As we continue to plan and built cities into the future, we need to think big in the transformation of mobility in the future by accepting change and remaining flexible to emerging technologies and trends. Public agencies need to explain to its constituents that this is a partnership exercise that requires a certain level of trust and together we can develop positive outcomes and results.

Know Your Why

Referencing Simon Sinek’s book and TED Talk, Start with Why, public agencies need to define the purpose of technology in serving the community. Technology for the sake of technology will only lead to negative outcomes, but if we can begin by identifying problems in our communities and apply technology as a solution we can help create a better future.

Trust is Key

Private industry and startups approach products and outcomes differently than public agencies. In it for the long-term, public agencies work diligently to build trust with its citizenry. As we pilot test new products and partner with private companies to implement new mobility options, public agencies need to protect this public trust. The growth of local government as a brokerage for mobility services through partnerships conveys this trust onto these private companies, so public agencies must stay aware of the who and how of these partnerships to maintain public trust into the future. 

Data is the New Oil

McKinsey & Company estimates that global revenue from car data could be as high as $750 billion by 2030 (Monetizing Car Data). Public agencies and private industry both collect large amounts of data, but the completeness, recency, and interoperability varies. With Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and micro-mobility operators, standard data formats are yet to be universal. The same stands for Google, Apple, INRIX, and other major mapping companies. Transparency by public agencies with data is beneficial to mobility partners operating in the community, but it is also vital for these private partners to share data with public agencies as private industry often has more recent or complete data sets. The need for data scientists to support both the public and private agencies will be key in effectively using this data to make better decisions and provide better services in the future.

Collaborate to Innovate

Again, as public agencies grow into a role as a brokerage of mobility services, collaboration is key in moving forward. We’ve seen TNCs and micro-mobility operators enter our cities, sometimes welcomed and sometimes not, but they are a response to a need in our communities that we must recognize.

 Public agencies must remain agile and flexible in this time of change – from procurement to constructed infrastructure – to make sure its citizenry has its needs met. Private industry allows public agencies to deflect some risk and advance innovation at a quicker pace than going at it alone.

For the upcoming year, the Texas Innovation Alliance looks to develop strategies and formulate priority projects in the areas of: Advanced Vehicles, Seamless Mobility, Equity & Access, Real-Time Data, and Freight & Logistics. These pillars have been defined to be essential to advancing transportation in the state into the future as we look for partners to collaborate in providing safe, effective transportation options for all users in our communities.

Some key initial steps for public agencies defined in the Summit include:

  1. Clear Policies – New mobility providers need clear guidelines, such as Texas SB2205, which give clearance for operations and testing by these new technologies and allowing these private companies to obtain insurance. This also includes clear policies and terminology relating to micro-mobility, such as scooters and sidewalk delivery vehicles, to ensure applicable laws are enforced while negating unnecessary or burdensome ones.
  2. Fiber or Duct Bank Installation – When rebuilding a road or constructing a new facility, accommodations for the future of connected vehicles and infrastructure is a great first step to take in future-proofing. Partnering with the private sector while running fiber or installing duct banks allows public agencies to prepare for new technology and minimize future expense and disruptions through later retrofitting.