So I arrived at the ITS World Congress in Orlando, and the first thing I saw by the TM&E booth was an unidentified flying object. That's not totally out of the ordinary at this show, where companies show off their latest gadgets and gimmicks for the ITS industry. I thought it might be a prototype of some kind of traffic management-camera system. No, not even close. What I saw hovering around the Gannett Fleming booth was just a toy--a giveaway. Still, I might be on to something. What if we enlisted an army of drones, unarmed, of course, to roam urban centers across the U.S. Instead of helicopters and static cameras, these suckers could provide action of real-time events all across interstates, county roads and local roads. Perhaps there is already a device out there, or maybe I will be seeing flying prototypes at the next World Congress.
I have walked in on some interesting general sessions at the show. One talked about the use of a camera and laser mounted on vehicles like garbage trucks and cabs to map out the road system on a daily basis. This system would keep a close eye on cracks and potholes. Another provided an overview of a road-user fee pilot project in Minneapolis that uses smart phones to record mileage and calculate fees. The added beauty of this system is that the phone also serves as a top-of-dashboard warning system. If you are coming up on a work zone, it shows an alert. If you are coming up on a school zone, it shows and alert AND sounds a beep if you are going over the posted speed limit.
I am hoping to visit a bridge project in Tampa today. I really do not want to see any UFOs out there.
Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.