We Asked 4 Business Leaders What our Infrastructure’s Future Needs. Here’s What They Said.

Jan 19, 2018 - 5:00pm

Senior Editor, Strategic Communications

It’s time to stop thinking about infrastructure as a problem, but as an opportunity for the country’s brightest minds and bipartisan government officials to think innovatively and invest wisely in the country’s most critical needs. That means innovative business minds, government, and nonprofits groups rolling up their sleeves to create the infrastructure of tomorrow.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is committed to not only modernizing the country’s infrastructure but to laying the groundwork for the future the country’s innovators will dream up and that American families desperately need.

The Chamber laid out its vision for the country’s infrastructure at an infrastructure event this week which brought together business leaders, policymakers, and investors to discuss the modernization of the nation’s foundation. During the event, four business leaders told us what was on top of their minds when it comes to modernizing and creating a forward-looking infrastructure system that not only solves some of society’s and the business world’s problems of today while creating the environment for a better tomorrow.

Take a look at what they said:

Rich Funk, Procter & Gamble,  Associate Director Product Supply, Purchases, Global eCommerce Logistics, Strategy, Sustainability

The future of all transportation right now has greater automation, override safety features and systems with smart learning artificial intelligence. The only thing missing is really infrastructure that we don’t have right now.  And it’s going to slow down the movement and investment that’s happening in the industry. Whether its sensors allowing semi-autonomous platooning, Wi-Fi enabled roads and railways, or database smart traffic allowances.

First, we need to fix the choke points, and second, we need to invest in ongoing technology that allows for continued improvements to put us as best-in-class worldwide. Choke points include Chicago and St Louis — that choke off the flow of our products into the north and Northwest and the West — and California, which is undersized.

We overcome those choke points, and we can invest more in our products sitting in warehouses waiting for inefficient transportation. That's cash tied up inefficiently versus us investing in R&D.

There are a lot of reasons why improved U.S. infrastructure is important and will have a direct impact on U.S. GDP.

John Townsend, Velodyne LiDAR

Smart vehicles are coming.

Forty thousand lives were lost last year due to traffic deaths. Ninety-four percent of it was caused by human error. Congestion: life in traffic sucks. On average people waste two weeks a year in stop and go traffic.

There is a new age coming. Sensors are getting cheaper; cloud computing is getting more ubiquitous. We are finding new ways of applying these technologies, and we are driving that into a new future that can change the paradigm of what we do in the next 50 years.

The information back and forth is what connected vehicles are all about. Connected to the driver and connected to infrastructure.

Currently when you drive down the road you as a taxpayer are part of that process. If connectivity is part of that conversation we need to have a conversation around that. We need to enable this technology

Eric McCarthy, Proterra Inc., Vice President, Government Relations and General Counsel

Modernizing infrastructure includes modernizing our public transportation system. Many of the buses that you see on the roads in your communities are old, very dirty, and the maintenance costs are skyrocketing.

This is an exciting time to be in the mobility space. We can’t go a week without hearing about new options, whether they be ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, all-electric vehicles.

We have major automotive companies pledging to expand their all-electric options — some going as far to say they will completely phase out the conventional engine. We’ve seen this in the heavy-duty space, with entire countries like China, France, Canada, and the U.K. who have all pledged to fully electrify their public transportation systems. In the United States, we’ve seen agency after agency pledge to going all-electric.

We have seen over the past several years mayors and city councils pay attention to the fact that public transportation is becoming mission critical for their communities. With one million people moving into urban areas every week the need for a stronger public transportation system is growing every day. City councils and mayors are looking for ways to improve those options for those who need public transportation to get to work, to shop, and to go to church.

Bill Goodwin, AirMap, General Counsel

One of the key things for unlocking the power of the drone economy is to build the digital infrastructure. It will enable transformative technologies to come to market.

There is no area if the emerging economy that needs a change in infrastructure and can help change infrastructure more than drones.

We’ve seen in truly transformative use cases. For us in the south out around hurricane Harvey and Irma, folks saw a really interesting use of drones emerge. Where a lot of regulatory barriers were washed away essentially we had drones providing incredibly valuable assistance. Not to just search and rescue and identifying people at lower altitudes that couldn't be seen by helicopter, but targeting areas that had been flooded and identifying infrastructure harm to get resources targeting and prioritizing those areas.

There is a gap between what drones can do and what they are allowed to do. Digital infrastructure is the medium where we can solve some of the problems that some folks have with drones that are holding back the widespread adoption and the high volume commercial cases that we want to see unlocked.

Digital infrastructure and our existing infrastructure are complimentary. If you look at the infrastructure we have today drones are already a powerful tool to identify how we prioritize spending on the hard infrastructure that exists. Without digital infrastructure, we can’t unlock that value.


More Articles On: 

About the Author

About the Author

Cordell Eddings
Senior Editor, Strategic Communications

Cordell is a senior editor and content strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.