Thursday, October 30, 2014

Future Transportation in a Connected World

Today was a great day for transportation!

In my morning class in Logistics & Transportation, we had a surprise guest from India - a consultant in Transportation & Logistics who was in the US for the first time, and had spoken recently in Los Angeles at the International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists. Many of my undergraduate students are interested in the consulting profession and, after an introduction, they asked her numerous questions not only about consulting but also about transportation in India and the challenges. Her talk in LA was on non-motorized last mile deliveries and associated challenges, including congestion. She told us about plans for new subway systems in India as well as the inroads that the Japanese are making in the transport sector from trains to logistics. She also talked about being the only female in her group initially and about the competition among top consulting firms for business. She noted the importance of competing on price and credentials, which I would call "quality." and experience.

Then it was time to go to lunch with a group of the Transportation faculty from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst since the group was hosting a faculty member from RPI, Professor Jeff Ban, whose advisor was Dr. Bin Ran at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and whose advisor, in turn, was Professor David E. Boyce. Academics tend to track their academic family trees or genealogy. Ran and Boyce co-authored the book, Modeling Dynamic Transportation Networks.

Information on Professor Ban's talk that took place this afternoon is below:

 Future Transportation in A Connected World

Xuegang (Jeff) Ban

Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Abstract: Emerging technologies (such as mobile sensing, connected vehicles, and new social media) make transportation components more connected. This includes connections/ communications among vehicles, and between vehicles and the infrastructure, as well as more close connections among transportation users. Such connections are transforming and will continue to further transform the transportation system. This talk will focus on certain aspects of these transformations, including (i) how mobile sensing data can be collected and used for urban traffic modeling applications; and (ii) what system analysis models may be developed to account for the connections among users.

I enjoyed his talk a lot and he emphasized issues of privacy and big data in transportation. Also, how not to just gather data but to glean knowledge from the data through algorithms, while preserving travellers' privacy.

I very much enjoyed the discussion on urban freight and the benefits of night-time deliveries in urban settings, including NYC, with some of the benefits including improved travel times and the lowering of emissions. However, a major challenge remains that the consumers, including retailers, want the deliveries to take place in the daytime and they hold the power - so discussions centered also on incentives.

Since several of my doctoral students also came to the talk I was very pleased that he mentioned the need for different behavioral models, which, coincidentally, we have been researching. And, of course, I was thrilled when he noted game theory and variational inequalities!

I took the photos below at Professor Ban's presentation and afterwards.