How Emerging Technologies Could Transform Infrastructure - Governing

After decades of lackluster investment, misinvestment and disinvestment, how does America reinvigorate its infrastructure spending to get the most impact from every dollar?

The Trump administration's own infrastructure plan might hold a key. As the White House put it in a fact sheet previewing the proposal, the administration wants to "encourage the development of new, transformative infrastructure projects."

Key words: "new," "transformative."

The president's plan has come in for plenty of criticism, particularly from those looking for Washington to lead the way on spending. And certainly there is a need for more investment in our roads, bridges and other vital public works. But the White House proposal captures an important point: America's infrastructure is primed for disruption. Technology and innovation have revolutionized every corner of our economy, including transit and mobility. And now is the time to capitalize on that innovation and build a national infrastructure plan that looks toward the infrastructure we need over the next 50 years.

There are already examples of transformative infrastructure projects under development. And they are thrilling. For instance, if the Elon Musk-inspired Hyperloop becomes reality, it could move passengers in capsules riding on air in underground tubes at hundreds of miles per hour.

But an infrastructure program needn't be as ambitious as the Hyperloop to be genuinely transformative. There are smaller steps that are available to us right now -- innovations that harvest the benefits of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and machine learning and use them in novel ways that improve our quality of life while stimulating economic growth.

We had the opportunity to develop one such solution last year, when we entered a crowdsourced competition organized by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers called the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge. AEM's call to ideators: design and pitch your plan for a transportation system that would move people more safely and efficiently than today's existing network.

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