This week, there has been a lot of talk about our country’s ‘infrastructure’.  Much of the conversation is about building and improving our roads, waterways and airports using traditional materials such as concrete, steel and asphalt. However, I want to go a step further and talk about the “smart” use of infrastructure. The reality is that technology – in the form of spectrum, sensors, and algorithms – will be the raw materials for a revolution to provide a safer, more efficient, and more sustainable way of life.

Back when I worked for New York City Mayor David Dinkins I helped negotiate a capital plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which funded NYC transit, bridges and tunnels, and commuter rail.  Our transportation and infrastructure work drove home the need for an integrated and long term approach to decision making. The infrastructure decisions we made in the early 90s, such as a rebuilt surface street along the west side of Manhattan with incorporated waterfront access and greenway, are still there.  

When Congress and the Administration assess infrastructure needs, it’s important that their decisions go beyond bricks and mortar and account for technology developments in other sectors of the economy that can enhance safer and smarter cities.  Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle–to-Infrastructure communications (V2V and V2I) should be on the list.  

While there is a lot of focus on self-driving cars, technology exists now that can stop crashes before they happen using V2V. These connected cars will be able to wirelessly talk to each other and the surrounding infrastructure, to avoid collisions, smooth traffic flow, and synch traffic signals to minimize energy consumption. When smart technology meets smart infrastructure we can stop accidents before they happen and create a safe environment for advanced mobility.