I am sat on a train heading back North from London the day after the 2017 ITS(UK) AGM. The meeting took place in Manchester the day after the terror attack at the Manchester Arena; the people of Manchester responded by going about business as close to normal as was possible and then by cramming into Albert Square at 6pm for a vigil. As many others have said before, when we see the worst that humanity has to offer it draws out the best in people. I did not feel it appropriate to start this Introduction without reflecting on those events and the tragic consequences on so many lives and families.
It is times such as this that put what we do into perspective. What we do within the ITS community is seek to harness the power of technology to make a positive difference – whether that is making travel safer or healthier, or just more bearable by easing congestion or providing good quality information. I think that sometimes we can get caught up in the detail and lose some focus on why we do what we do. I also think that we underestimate just how much of a difference ITS makes in our communities, which in turn means that the value of what we do is missed by others.
So as I begin my term as Chair of ITS (UK) I want to say that it is time that we emerged from the shadows to take our place a little closer to the limelight, although maybe not quite centre stage just yet. I think that we should take some time to create our “stories” so that we can explain, in simple terms, why what we do makes a difference, what the outcomes are, and hence why it is important. “Making the complex seem simple” is quite a difficult thing to do and even harder to master, yet it is an essential skill alongside all the technical knowledge we have.
This is such an exciting time to be involved in ITS. Spending on infrastructure has never been so high, and whether that is on smart motorways, a digital railway, buildings or local roads, there is a real dependence upon technology. The Government’s Digital Strategy just shouts “ITS” from every page and the investment in connected & autonomous vehicles continues to grow. Brexit will mean that we in the UK ITS sector will need to understand just what will change for us and we need to be able to advise Government and have a clear voice. Then there is the growth in data, developments in automation and a move towards different models of buying and using transport. It feels like the need for ITS and people who know how to harness its possibilities has never been greater.
I would like to thank Alan Stevens for his Chairmanship of ITS (UK) over the last 2 years and for the help and guidance he has given to me to help me prepare for the role. I feel privileged to have been elected as Chair of ITS(UK) and I am looking forward to working with Jennie and her team as well as our many members to ensure that together we bring ITS into the mainstream and are seen to be making a real and positive difference to our society.