Pete Spiller, Jarrod Cady and Kevin Borras announce Thinking Highways’ exciting media partnership with the most innovative transportation event of 2017


“It’s time we had the talk.” Did hearing that sentence make your heart race? It’s a phrase that usually comes right before an uncomfortable, frank and important conversation. It’s appropriately the theme for INTERSECT17. With conference registration now open, the major annual transportation gathering will be held this year in Knoxville, Tennessee, November 14-16.

With intelligent transportation systems (ITS) evolving so quickly, and with the world’s population trusting us to get it right, we can’t afford to let social, technical and policy issues associated with ITS get lost in the process. That’s why Thinking Highways is collaborating with GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc. and the non-profit Alliance for Transportation Innovation (ATI21) to present INTERSECT17.

INTERSECT17 will be a non-traditional transportation gathering in every sense.

First, it’s free to attend. Private sector participants will be asked to make a small donation to an underserved school in one of Knoxville’s poorest neighborhoods, but beyond that, the only cost to attendees will be transportation and discounted lodging.

Second, over the course of three days, attendees and speakers will map out the path from transportation-now to transportation-future generating tangible and actionable ideas along the way.

Third, keynote speakers and panelists will include America’s top-tier transportation leaders offering and receiving insight in a dialogue with attendees. Among them, former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen. Governor Allen made transportation a cornerstone of his political career and continues to advocate for progressive thinking as America develops its next transportation system. He’ll be joined by Michigan Department of Transportation Director, Kirk Steudle, widely recognized as a lead-player in the development of one of the nation’s premiere transportation testing and research regions. Former US Secretary of Transportation, Mary E Peters will offer lessons we can learn from how the view of the future of transportation during her tenure as secretary compares to the current reality. Utah Department of Transportation Director and Incoming Chairman of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, Carlos Braceras will speak from both a local and national perspective and retired congressman and US House Chairman of the Science, Space & Technology Committee, Robert Walker will discuss evolving technology, policy and regulation. INTERSECT17 won’t even be confined by planet Earth. Four-time space shuttle NASA Astronaut Donald Thomas will describe how transportation technology could impact space exploration as America prepares to travel to Mars.

Bill Malkes, Co-Founder and CEO of GRIDSMART and host of the event says INTERSECT17 will be unlike any other transportation event. “Our idea is to consider the often-overlooked issues facing the future of transportation,” he said. “How can we facilitate partnerships between traditional transportation organizations, innovators and financiers to ensure the best ideas get their shot? How do we make sure everyone has access to these incredible technologies including the poor, the disabled and the elderly? How do we prepare for job displacement and train a workforce that will thrive in the new transportation economy? We want to come up with a tangible roadmap to success.”

As INTERSECT17’’s media sponsor, Thinking Highways will work closely with the event’s partners to produce and present findings of the most comprehensive ITS jobs survey to date. Over the next few months, we will ask our readers how they are preparing for new intelligent transportation jobs, who should bear the responsibility of retraining and how organizations can position themselves for success in the new economy. Luis Hill, CEO of H3BM, publishers of Thinking Highways, said: “There is appropriate excitement in ITS about autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and technical solutions we couldn’t have imagined a generation ago, but throughout history, industry’s success has been a function of a well-prepared, well-trained workforce. We believe that will be true as intelligent transportation evolves.”

The results and data will be delivered as part of session entitled “Jobs 401k.” It’s a play on the 401k retirement plan that grows dramatically with early investment. “This is about making jobs decisions now to generate dividends in the future,” said GRIDSMART CEO Malkes. “As an industry, we can’t afford to wait until the last minute. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, planning will be crucial.”

Attendance at INTERSECT17 will be limited to approximately 300 people. Paul Brubaker, President and CEO of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation, presenting sponsor of the event, said that in a departure from other transportation gatherings, the relative intimacy of the meeting will allow participants to network with leaders and influence the future of transportation. “We expect attendees to come armed with perspectives and ideas. The more candid the conversation, the greater the outcome,” he said. “This won’t be a sit-on-your-hands conference. The timing is critical. Over the next couple of years our industry will likely shake out the winners and losers and as our ‘time to have the talk’ theme suggests, we’ll challenge ourselves and each other to come up with strategies to put people in the best position possible.”

As a valuable add-on, trainers from the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE), will offer sessions on transportation systems management. NOCoE is a collaboration of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and is a leading voice in transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) best-practices.

Leading up to INTERSECT17, Thinking Highways will be offering speaker updates, interviews with participants and podcasts on the conference and of course, we will be in Knoxville this November, reporting daily from the meeting. We’d love to see you there because you deserve a voice in this conversation and frankly, “it’s time we had the talk.”

To register or for more information, please visit