By Andrew Wernette, The Oakland Press
The 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems is being held in Detroit from Sept. 7-11.
The annual conference, which alternates in location between the Americas, Europe and Asia each year, features cutting-edge technologies developed for the automotive industry and general infrastructure. About 200 companies from around the world will be exhibited at this year’s event.
“Right now, everything is pointing to not only this being a success, but having it be the most successful World Congress [so far],” said Jim Barbaresso, vice president of intelligent transportation systems at HNTB Infrastructure Solutions, as well as a chairman for the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems.
“It’s a busy, busy time,” he said.
The event will be primarily located at Cobo Center, where participating companies will set up their exhibits. There will also be shuttles to and from Belle Isle, where some companies will demonstrate their vehicle technologies.
Highlighting the event are some of the business leaders who will be making an appearance. General Motors CEO Mary Barra will preside over the opening ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 7 with a keynote speech addressing the changing transportation environment around the world, and the advanced technologies associated with it. Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford will head a plenary session on Monday, Sept. 8, as will Verizon Communications Chairman and CEO Lowell C. McAdam on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Barra and Ford are part of a long list of local leaders that make up the honorary committee for the World Congress, including Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Department of Transportation director Kirk T. Steudle, and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. All are invited to attend the event’s Civic Community Day, which will take place on Sept. 9.
Local emergency responders are also welcomed to come in uniform for ER Day on Sept. 9 for free.
Throughout the event, there will be numerous talks, plenary sessions and round table discussions on the current issues regarding transportation and technology.
“We expect close to 10,000 people to attend, and maybe even more,” Barbaresso said, explaining that the event will be the largest of its kind to date. “We’re really excited about that.”
Barbaresso said that the World Congress would hinge on its exhibits, technical programs and technology showcases. There will be a host of activities, including a scenario similar the television show Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to a group of investors. A “mock incident,” where local emergency crews will demonstrate their tactics, will take place on Belle Isle on Sept. 9. There will even be a “Flavor of Michigan” event on Belle Isle, where attendees will be exposed to locally-made foods and drinks.
Around 1,000 Michigan high school and college students will also be invited to attend the World Congress, where they can participate in building electric vehicles from kits, a robotics competition and other activities.
The event will wrap up on Sept. 11 with a closing ceremony.
“The purpose [of the World Congress] is to showcase and advance technology on a global scale,” Barbaresso said. He added that people from more than 65 countries would be in town for the event.
“They’re coming from all over the planet to Detroit to see what’s going on,” he said.
Since 1994, when the first World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems took place in Paris, the location of the conference has alternated between the Asia, the Americas and Europe, respectively. The last one was held in Tokyo. As Barbaresso explained, he was fortunate to have Detroit narrowed down among others in the American continents as this year’s host city.
“The people who know how to build cars are here,” he said, citing the city’s rich industrial past.
But, he said, “Detroit is home to an emerging technology sector, too.” He cited Oakland County as being a leader in housing intelligent transportation systems companies.
Barbaresso also said that many local institutions, especially the Michigan Department of Transportation, had been extremely supportive and helpful with planning out the event.
For more information on the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, visit itsworldcongress.org.