The Texas Transportation Institute’s new, international research initiative takes flight
Transportation is a thread that knits countries and economies together worldwide. Innovations in congestion relief, safety and the reliability of roadway systems—many developed at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)—have made just-in-time inventories and next-day deliveries commonplace.
And while reaching across oceans and continents to share and implement ideas is not new, recent efforts at TTI to exchange research internationally are at an all-time high. TTI researchers are literally taking flight to shake hands, share research and pave the way to new partnerships.
“TTI researchers do world-class work in their areas of expertise,” says TTI Associate Director Ed Seymour. “And while many of our sponsors are here in Texas, a number of international avenues exist to research and exchange best practices worldwide.”
Seymour, who coordinates the International Initiatives Team (IIT) at TTI, says the team’s ultimate goal is to give researchers the tools, strategies and policies they need to make international research easier.
“Looking at the big picture means incorporating global research into TTI’s strategic plan,” says Seymour. “After we did that, we organized a team that looks at all of the aspects of international partnerships with public entities.”
One of the first tools the team developed was a survey to categorize TTI’s diversity of research disciplines and international backgrounds. The survey produced a database researchers can use to link up with other researchers who speak a variety of native languages—a helpful tool when negotiating international agreements.
Seymour says the team is also developing a roadmap researchers can use to find public agencies around the world, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, that sponsor international transportation research. Additional efforts are under way in Mexico, Paraguay and a number of other countries.
“For example, we formed a partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) in Chennai, India,” says Seymour. “We also linked up with Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Kumbakonam Rajagopal—a graduate of IIT Madras—to identify research avenues and activities in India of value to India, A&M and TTI.”
Seymour is pursuing similar partnerships in Qatar and China, along with TTI Research Engineers Shawn Turner, Kevin Balke and others.
“The international presence of Texas A&M University in Qatar and other countries demonstrates our commitment to solving problems and answering research questions no matter where challenges exist in the world today,” says Texas A&M’s Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering, G. Kemble Bennett. “TTI’s efforts in Qatar and elsewhere are a strong and visible expression of that commitment.”
Seymour emphasizes that exchanging research and best practices around the world is far from a one-way street. For example, Turner is exploring the data that can be collected by the vast number of taxi cabs in China featuring global positioning systems (GPS) that track travel and location. These data could prove helpful in creating a congestion and mobility report for China.
“We’re also partnering with some developing countries because one view is that these countries are the most challenged and have the most needs for safety and congestion improvement,” says Seymour. “In addition, their resources are often constrained, and we believe that these countries are where the transportation innovations will be the greatest.”
“Good practices are good practices, no matter where they are,” says Seymour. “We want to learn from the best practices around the world, and countries and organizations across the globe want to do the same thing.”