UFTI Attends CUTC Meeting in Los Angeles, CA

UFTI Director Dr. Lily Elefteriadou and STRIDE Research Coordinator Ines Aviles-Spadoni were in Los Angeles, California from June 6th to 9th to attend and present at the 2016 Summer Meeting of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC). The meeting was hosted by the METRANS Transportation Center at the University of Southern California (USC).

CUTC is an organization that brings together university transportation centers around the nation to discuss matters related to research, education, workforce development and technology transfer – topics important to the transportation field.  Institute and center directors, including key staff, attend these meetings twice every year (in January during the Annual Transportation Research Board meeting, and during the summer at a meeting hosted by a CUTC member). The UFTI is a CUTC member, and Dr. Elefteriadou serves as the CUTC Executive Board’s Vice President this year.

At this summer’s meeting, Elefteriadou provided her thoughts and recommendations, serving on a panel that deliberated on “Transformational Technologies: Can our Educational Programs keep up?” Other panelists included Tyler Reeb from California State University, Long Beach, Jim Misener of Qualcomm Technologies Inc., and Santiago Navarro from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“The rapid development of new vehicle and sensor technologies presents a challenge and an opportunity for university faculty to update transportation curricula in order to prepare the next generation of transportation professionals accordingly and to facilitate professional development of the existing workforce,” Elefteriadou said. “The UFTI has a strong tradition of collaboration among various disciplines related to transportation technology, and is very well positioned to develop and deliver such curricula.”

As a key staff member of the UFTI’s USDOT grant-funded STRIDE Center, Aviles-Spadoni took the lead in organizing a session for the UTC staff who manage the day-to-day work at these centers.  Apart from formally changing the name to the “UTC Managers Session”, Aviles-Spadoni, along with Dr. Chandra Bhat of the University of Texas, moderated a session on “Best Practices in Technology Transfer and Research Program Management”. At this session, speakers discussed what has and has not worked for UTCs in creating and administering technology transfer activities and managing all aspects of research projects funded by their UTCs.

“The UTC Managers Session is very important for people who manage the daily activities of these grant-funded centers,” Aviles-Spadoni said. “We’re always looking to improve our processes, sharing best practices, which benefits the UTC program as a whole.”

In keeping with the transportation theme, the host of this year’s meeting, METRANS, wanted guests to explore LA and especially use its transit system. To get to the meeting venue at USC, attendees took the Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro Expo Line each day, which was a pleasant 30-minutes from the hotel. Guests were accommodated at the iconic Biltmore Hotel, right in the heart of Downtown LA, where various movies and series have been filmed such as National Treasure and Mad Men. Aviles-Spadoni was lucky to see a couple of productions in real time.

“It was about 7 am, and as I was walking down a huge corridor to the lobby of the Biltmore, I passed by what I later realized was some sort of morning show,” she said. “I saw lights, cameras, and three people sitting down in front of the cameras and lights.”

That very same day during a meeting break at the USC campus, Aviles-Spadoni and her colleague, Hau Hagedorn from Portland State University, saw a commercial being filmed.

Other meeting-related events included a tour of Hyperloop, which Elefteriadou and Aviles-Spadoni attended. Hyperloop is a futuristic transportation system which uses high energy efficiency along with electric propulsion to produce a carbon-free mode of transportation that can go on land, underwater, in tunnels with no right-of-way restrictions, and it is super-fast. This form of transportation will be offered on-demand and will depart every 10 seconds.

“The Hyperloop tour was very informative,” Elefteriadou commented. “This is a unique type of transportation, which has the potential to revolutionize transportation of freight and people.