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August 16, 2022Episode 39. All over the Map: Just two car guys talking about transportation.
FEATURING: Greg Winfree, Pete Bigelow
From self-driving tech to safety culture and power grids. When a transportation research leader and an auto industry journalist cross paths, the conversation can go in many directions.
About Our Guests
TTI Agency Director
Greg Winfree became TTI’s agency director in 2016 after working at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). He began his USDOT service as chief counsel in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and was later sworn in as assistant secretary. He also served as deputy administrator and administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Prior to those appointments, Greg served as corporate counsel for a number of Fortune 500 corporations, and also worked as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Deputy Mobility Editor, Automotive News
Pete Bigelow directs mobility coverage for Automotive News, a trade publication covering the global automotive industry. He writes about developments in the EV and autonomous technology areas, and hosts Shift: A Podcast About Mobility. He got interested in mobility issues while working as a certified flight instructor. Now Pete’s firmly on the ground. He lives outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and three children.
Bernie Fette (host) (00:18):
Welcome. This is Thinking Transportation — conversations about how we get ourselves and the things we need from one place to another. I’m Bernie Fette with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Bernie Fette (00:33):
So, what might happen if you hand a microphone to a research agency director and an auto industry journalist, in the same time and space? Where might such a discussion go? That’s what we wanted to know in putting together this episode of Thinking Transportation. Greg Winfree is the agency director at TTI. Pete Bigelow is a reporter for Automotive News and the host of “Shift: a podcast about mobility.” We invited them here together for an exchange of thoughts and ideas that would be as free-wheeling as they wanted it to be. Gentlemen, thank you both for making time for us and for helping us to make this conversation happen. Greg, as you described it to me out in the parking lot several days ago, I think you preferred for this to be just two car guys talking about transportation. So that’s where we’re gonna take this.
Greg Winfree (guest) (01:30):
Absolutely. And there’s no better conversation than just two car guys; just sawin’ on a piece of wood. So this will be a lot of fun.
Pete Bigelow (guest) (01:37):
It’s great to be here today, Bernie and Greg. Thank you both for the invitation. I’m sorry I missed out on the parking lot conversation, but we can jump right in here.
Bernie Fette (01:45):
So, ITS America is hosting its World Congress next month. I thought we could start there. The organization was founded in 1991, but we could safely say that the concept of making transportation more intelligent started well before that. At TTI, I’ve seen pictures of the early traffic management centers and all of those photos are in black and white. So I think that tells us something about how long the concept has been around.
Greg Winfree (02:13):
Well, that’s certainly fair to say, if you look at some of, even the, uh, World’s Fair presentations. ’64 comes to mind. And even earlier, some of the earliest iterations of self-driving cars were being put into the American traveling psyche. So it goes to show that the timeline for development in the transportation context is a lot longer and more considered than perhaps other areas where folks are getting more instant gratification.
Bernie Fette (02:44):
Yeah. And we can’t forget about a reference to the Jetsons, too, I suppose. But on the subject of intelligent transportation, I’d like to ask you both, starting off with you, Pete. If we liken this quest to the experience of going to school, where has transportation done really well in getting smarter and where does it need to take a step back for some maybe remedial coursework?
Pete Bigelow (03:10):
Boy, going to school? Uh, it’s summer break right now. I have to put the school hat back on, but I feel like transportation has done really well. That part is actually tougher to answer, I think, than where we need some further work, certainly on the connected car front and getting some of the safety technology that’s been around a long time deployed widely. I think we’re starting to learn now that some of the driver assist systems that we might call ADAS systems out there don’t work as well under all circumstances as they do in very specific circumstances. So, you know, I think there’s a lot of school work to be done would be my short answer.
Bernie Fette (03:51):
Greg Winfree (03:52):
Yeah. You know, I would say transportation has done a very good job in moving from thoughts about transportation from a modal perspective to now the more mature appreciation of it from a mobility perspective and an integrated mobility perspective. So certainly in my days at USDOT, it was still, um, siloed in, you know, those organizations that carry all of the, uh, alphabet soup from DC. FHWA, Federal Highway Administration, uh, FMCSA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But with the advent of pedestrian and bicyclists and other vulnerable road users into the mobility matrix, those definitions necessarily became too narrow for what we’re addressing now. So I think transportation has done well at that. But from a remedial perspective, sometimes we get out over our skis and the point that Pete raised is a significant one. You know, we should have spent more time working across, particularly the federal space in the connected vehicle concepts to bring those to fruition rather than marching headlong into automated driving systems.
Pete Bigelow (05:16):
Maybe along the lines of where transportation has done well, where I should give some more credit to is the mindset has shifted from crash mitigation, seat belts and airbags, to really thinking about crash prevention. How do we prevent the crash in the first place and Greg, exactly to your point, incorporating pedestrians, bicyclists people outside the car, into the idea of traffic safety,
Bernie Fette (05:43):
Let’s stay on that topic of safety that you’re both touching on pretty significantly, I think. Part of the promise of smarter transportation has been tied directly to safety before and in more recent years. But we continue to see traffic crash deaths and injuries happening at rates that are pretty staggering. How much can we really expect from smarter cars and how much of that burden should be on smarter drivers?
Greg Winfree (06:13):
I’m gonna let Pete handle that one.
Pete Bigelow (06:18):
Well, I think that a lot of potential improvement is out there and sort of like the low-hanging fruit, if we can thwart drunk drivers, if we can get people to slow down and buckle up, you can eliminate a lot of those deaths and injuries out there. And it has little to do with technology in some way, except the technology already in the car. Well, and maybe to counter that there’s some real promising work being done on the drunk driving front and there’s a new bill that is going to ensure that there’s technology put into cars that stops drunk drivers from driving in the first place. So I think that in a way, like we talk about all this technology going into cars, be it connected, autonomous, something like that. Interlock prevention is one of the best tools on the near-term horizon that can put a dent in those staggering traffic death numbers that are obviously going in the wrong direction.
Greg Winfree (07:13):
You know what I would say, Bernie, cuz uh, Pete has hit the nail on the head. This has been a vexing issue for way too long. And you know, out on the stump, when I’m talking about this, I like to say, there’s no way we would tolerate 300 737s crashing on an annual basis, right? One plane crash, regardless of size, isn’t above the fold. And that’s for those who remember newspapers. For other users, those that buzz on your, on your news feeds, that’s an immediate issue in a crisis, right? But for some reason we tolerate that level of carnage on our roadways. I don’t know how we culturally get past that blind spot. That’s a real challenge. But you know, we recently had our traffic safety conference just last week here in College Station. And I was talking about this with some federal officials and to a certain extent, there is the “that’s the next-guy” issue.
Greg Winfree (08:10):
And I told them that might be an effective strategy to have a PSA that says, you know, guess what — you are the next guy, right? Because everyone thinks it’s not gonna happen to me. And when we talk about traffic crashes, we say, oh seven out of a thousand roadway crashes have fatalities. And that’s the way transportation professionals look at it. But the rest of the world or the rest of the country looks at it, Hey, 993 people didn’t die in crashes. Right? Both are correct. But when you look at it from a 993 versus seven, it’s always, well, that’s the other guy. I’m doing everything. I’m an above average driver. So I don’t know how we tackle these cultural challenges, but I think that’s at the root of a lot of what Pete had identified as significant challenges in the country.
Bernie Fette (08:58):
You know, I can still remember whenever I first started at TTI, there was a researcher who talked about all the complexities of building a car and he talked about the nuts and the bolts that came together to try to build a safe car. And he said, the biggest problem we have still is the nut behind the wheel.
Pete Bigelow (09:20):
Maybe I could throw out a radical idea here. I assume it’s politically dead in the water, but what if we completely reinvented and rethought driver’s education? And that we emphasize that driving is a privilege, not a right. And there’s more rigorous testing, more remedial actions for people who fall short. And we really try to get the bottom 5 percent of drivers off the road.
Greg Winfree (09:46):
Yeah. And that’s what they do in European countries, you know, with graduated licenses and they make sure that you have the maturity and the ability to handle these vehicles before you’re loose on the road. I won’t name any particular auto manufacturer, but with 700 horsepower vehicles.
Bernie Fette (10:05):
Right. And I think that one of the things they’re learning about the young driver is that young drivers are waiting longer to actually get their license than they used to, which is a good thing whenever you consider the fact that the part of your brain that actually processes judgment calls isn’t fully developed until you’re well into your twenties.
Pete Bigelow (10:25):
I’d like to think that’s a very good thing, Bernie and it’s, it’s interesting. We had a terrible crash in the town that I live in here in southeast Michigan, just within the last two weeks where someone who had graduated from high school days before passed away in a traffic crash. And I couldn’t help but think about some of those statistics that you just mentioned about brain development. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting longer and maybe a net benefit of kids today waiting longer in general to get their license might be that we lose fewer on the road.
Bernie Fette (10:54):
Greg Winfree (10:55):
You know, that resonates with me, but I’m gonna throw out something to the not contrary, but to think about a little bit. So when I was at DOT, I was responsible for satellite navigation systems. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation we can go down, but I bring that up because I was allowed to visit a certain Air Force base in Colorado. And I was completely blown away by the fact that 19-year-old kids are the ones that have the military training and discipline to fly these spacecraft on our behalf. Right? So part of it is kids that age have better dexterity from having played all these video games, spatial awareness, hand/eye coordination. So I’m not saying it completely diminishes by the time you hit 25, but it might be more difficult for a 25-year-old starting to learn how to drive than perhaps a 16, 17-year-old. So I’m on board with you, Pete. But you know, there probably are human factors, reasons across the spectrum as to where the appropriate touchpoint to start refining those skills before you put yourself in a, a death missile on our roadways, cuz I don’t want that around me either.
Bernie Fette (12:17):
And you both make a good point, but another consideration that I’m recalling is that, and this speaks to what you were saying Greg, about the age really, to a certain extent age doesn’t matter as much as we think it might in some cases purely because it’s driving experience — regardless of the age you’re at whenever you get that experience — that is one of the best preventers of traffic crashes, is just practice.
Pete Bigelow (12:44):
You know, I’m thinking you’re right. And it plays into another issue out there in transportation today. And it’s the requirement that pilots retire at age 65. And we’re seeing that a bit of pilot shortage, some efforts to prolong that to 67. And it’s interesting on both sides of the spectrum, whether we’re talking about teenagers or senior citizens or driving a car versus flying an airplane, we’re talking about like where do you draw the line in terms of inexperience and experience in weighing the benefits and negatives of having that?
Greg Winfree (13:17):
Bernie Fette (13:18):
It’s a lot more complex than it looks.
Greg Winfree (13:20):
Well. It is. And Bernie, you know, I, I toss out, so we are here in the community with a major university and you know, Texas is blessed with tremendous real estate. But part of that real estate means there’s some very small towns with one stop light, if any, or a flashing yellow, where many kids learn to drive. But when they get here to College Station, I mean it, it folks told me when I first moved here, Greg, do not go near campus the first month or two. When these kids from all across the state that have never experienced the complex driving environment are trying to navigate their way around. And you know, I’ve seen some inexplicable crashes from all manner of angles and all types of vehicles that literally occurred during that first couple of months. So there’s a lot about exposure as well and, and opportunity to be in complex driving environments.
Bernie Fette (14:16):
I can say that you’re absolutely right on that. At least in my case, because my hometown, where I learned how to drive had two traffic lights. So yeah, there’s, there’s a huge difference there. I know we could make an entire episode of this podcast about the safety issue, but I wanna touch on a couple of other things that I know you guys are both very knowledgeable about. Let’s talk for just a moment about 5G. For a lot of people, any mention of 5G relates directly to personal communication — the cell phone that they carry around — communication between people, but what does 5G mean to communication between cars?
Greg Winfree (14:58):
Well, there’s kind of a, what did it used to mean for communication between cars? It was a spectrum of radio frequency that held a lot of promise for cars to talk to one another and for cars and trucks, of course, to talk to infrastructure, to get information that would provide situational awareness. So knowing what the other driver is going to do, knowing what roadway conditions are, but because you know, radio access is, so if it were real estate, it would be the hottest, you know, beach real estate in the world. It’s been snapped up by a better funded, more aggressive neighbor that turned that real estate to their own end uses to the detriment of, I would say transportation safety.
Pete Bigelow (15:54):
Yeah. I would piggyback on that Greg and say, since the FCC gave away a portion of the automotive safety spectrum, the jury seems and correct me if I’m wrong, still very much out on what sort of interference the neighboring bands will have on the remaining portion of the auto safety spectrum. And thus, like, I, I feel 5G could be a contributor to safety in the future if there’s a vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure, uh, widespread deployment. But it seems like once again, we’re in this holding pattern in the auto industry to, to the extent of who’s gonna launch this, uh, and now what sort of interference could, could render it less effective or ineffective.
Greg Winfree (16:43):
Bernie Fette (16:44):
And all of that relates directly to autonomous mobility. So I just wanted to ask you both, Pete in particular, I know that you have looked into this explored this topic quite a bit lately. In the race for creating autonomous mobility. We have personal travel and we have freight movement. So which one is ahead now? And which one do you think will ultimately win that race?
Pete Bigelow (17:08):
If it’s a race between passenger applications and freight, I think the race is about over. I’m gonna look at it as one of them is checkers, and the other is chess.
Greg Winfree (17:17):
I like that.
Pete Bigelow (17:17):
I think freight is the place that we’re going to see applications of autonomy or automation in the near term. And it’s not necessarily because highways are simpler and in some ways I think they’re more complex when you take a class-eight truck that’s fully loaded and, and ask it to slow down based on objects in the road ahead. But I think that there’s the potential for financial benefits when you remove a human driver, I think every trucking company out there right now sees the implications, sees what happens when you remove hours of service from the complexity of their operations. And for that reason, for the commercial reason, I think that freight is where we’re gonna see this deployed first and foremost.
Bernie Fette (18:03):
Greg Winfree (18:04):
Yeah. I agree a hundred percent. You know, particularly here in the big western states, we have huge expanses of straight-line interstates that, as Pete said, do provide complexities if there’s animals or, you know, debris in the roadways, but at least everybody’s going in the same direction, hopefully. We do have wrong-way driving studies we’ve done, but everyone’s largely going in the same direction. Largely at the same speed in the main trucks are not to drive in the leftmost lane for the most part. So on the interstates that are four lanes, that’s, you know, right hand lane travel for these vehicles. So, you know, conceptually you can have a human driver pilot the vehicle outside of the orbit of a urban center or a major city, put it into self-driving and get out, put it into self-driving and stay in and let the truck drive to the next orbit of the next urban center where you need, you know, a human to manage that
Bernie Fette (19:07):
Greg Winfree (19:09):
Yeah. So to Pete’s point what that does, it potentially tremendously stretches the hours of service and the ability to move freight across country, uh, on a continuous basis. But from an owner/operator standpoint, it also gets to, you know, the real-world issue of a shortage of, uh, long-haul and heavy truck drivers. So, you know, for those reasons to Pete’s point, there are a lot of industry interest in this, and I agree with them, it’s checkers versus chess, but I think the checkers game is going to be the one that is a proof of concept for all vehicle technologies to follow.
Bernie Fette (19:47):
Especially important, now, in light of supply chain issues, do you think?
Greg Winfree (19:51):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s still a fresh memory of not having enough toilet paper.
Bernie Fette (19:58):
Greg Winfree (19:59):
You know, that still resonates when we visit with legislators and others and you know, others that are interested in where these conversations and where these technologies are going.
Bernie Fette (20:08):
Okay. Let’s talk specifically about electric vehicles, if we can, for a little while. It’s hard to talk about those without including power generation in the discussion and power distribution too, which means talking about the power grid. Okay. I’ll just leave it there. What are your thoughts on that? Very broad and still emerging topic.
Pete Bigelow (20:33):
Greg, I’m gonna let you take that one since you are in Texas, where I believe there’s been some issues with the power grid from time to time. I want to hear about that.
Greg Winfree (20:42):
Wow. What is, what a set up. I appreciate that, Pete. Hey, but you know, I’ve been on the stump saying, look here in Texas, we couldn’t get the power situation straight when it got cold. Now that we’re in the midst of a heat wave, they’re talking about power reductions during the peak periods of the day. So we haven’t figured out how to get the power consistently when it’s hot, what are we gonna do when we get 20 million electric vehicles? And those are real world concerns. I’m not pointing fingers at any particular electricity producer, but you know, if Texas is gonna continue to go its own way and not tap into the eastern or the western grid, then the only reasonable answer left is we’re gonna need to up our game from a foreseeability perspective, as well as current needs for power generation that serves the markets that they currently serve. So I am concerned up to, and including the point that I recently purchased for my own home, a solar battery-powered backup system, so that, you know, I’ve got at least power on tap to carry us through any outages or brown-ages into the future. So it’s a real-world issue.
Pete Bigelow (21:59):
Yeah. And I think to be fair, since I put you on the spot being in Texas, it’s only fair to mention that I think northern California had significant issues when wildfires hit last year.
Greg Winfree (22:09):
Pete Bigelow (22:09):
And they needed to reduce power to the grid. And I, there’s lots of good questions out of places in the southern United States like Florida, about what happens if a hurricane comes, people need to evacuate, uh, they can’t charge their electric vehicles or they could only go so far. So I think there’s so many questions out there right now, still at this point, when we’re expecting this big influx of electric vehicles and starting to see uptake in the consumer marketplace, and yet we don’t have answers to those questions. We don’t have answers as to why a quarter of the chargers that are already out there today don’t work when they’re supposed to. It feels like collectively the United States is building this electric vehicle aircraft, as we’re already flying.
Greg Winfree (22:55):
I agree a hundred percent and, you know, thanks for bailing me out so that my Texas neighbors don’t think I’m just pointing fingers at our state. But you know, it’s a national issue. We’ve got 243 million registered vehicles in this country. And if and when that becomes a majority, electrified, what’s the plan? These are gonna be national level issues, national security issues to be perfectly frank. So what’s the plan forward?
Pete Bigelow (23:20):
That’s funny you mentioned that, Greg, I was just talking with someone today who mentioned that electric vehicle chargers are the new promising attack vector for hackers trying to get into automotive cybersecurity. And the, the chargers are the principle threat now almost as much as the telematics unit was five years ago. So that’s right. Yeah. What happens when they get in and what can you do when you’re adjusting battery consumption or power or what happens when you get to a whole fleet? It’s very early innings again, of, of answering a lot of these questions.
Greg Winfree (23:50):
Bernie Fette (23:52):
This sounds like one of those areas of transportation where technology has proceded a lot more quickly than all of the other issues, all of the other considerations, uh, that end up going into long-term planning and implementation. Would that be fair to say?
Greg Winfree (24:11):
I would certainly say digitization writ large, right? Cuz I make the distinction between analog vehicles and digital vehicles. So back in the old days before, you know, the can bus plugs, when, when you know, cars had spark plugs and carburetors, things were a lot simpler and yeah, vehicles were dealt with on the one-to-one basis, there was no connectivity. There was no cross platforming and other ways to cause mischief, no over-the-air updates and whatnot. And the fact that we’re now riding around in rolling computers subjects us to the same challenges that the computers sitting on our desk have, or in our pockets with our cell phones.
Pete Bigelow (24:56):
Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it certainly begs the question, you know, there’s the mindset often out there that the technology’s going to help us, technology’s going to save us. And you know, that’s a very broad theme, but at the very least it’s creating just as many questions or, or headaches perhaps as we had before. And I, I won’t make a judgment right now as to whether there’s a net benefit. I think there probably is. But yeah, it certainly throws more curve balls out there.
Greg Winfree (25:22):
Yeah, for sure.
Bernie Fette (25:25):
You mentioned Greg, the number of registered vehicles in this country, I think you said 240 million plus
Greg Winfree (25:32):
Uh, yeah. 243 million right in there.
Bernie Fette (25:34):
Yeah. Which helps to underscore how car culture has been part of American culture, and culture around the world for that matter, since the invention of cars. For some people, much of that car culture has been about the sheer experience, the fun, if you will, of driving. I’m wondering if the two of you think that some of the persistent safety issues and congestion that we’ve been talking about, whether those threaten to make that element of car culture a thing of the past.
Pete Bigelow (26:06):
Well, Greg mentioned before that the 700-horsepower cars out there on, on one hand are probably quite fun to drive, but I think that they’re a component of the safety problems that are only getting worse out there, which we hit on. So there’s that aspect. And then I think, you know, I’d like to think of myself as a car guy, but no part of, of sitting in traffic is fun. So at some point, where is the fun? It doesn’t have to be all one or the other, but certainly there’s fun sometimes. And then there’s just moving from A to B when that’s the goal versus enjoying the open road.
Bernie Fette (26:39):
And I remember Greg talking to me once before about the challenge, whenever you have this growing ocean of autonomous vehicles, but you’ve still got the occasional ’57 Chevy in that mosh pit, because some people just don’t wanna give up their ’57 Chevys or their 40-year-old convertibles or whatever they are. And those are cars that don’t communicate with all the other cars that are communicating with each other.
Greg Winfree (27:03):
Yeah. You know, and Bernie, I was saying the mosh pit gets confusing when it’s 50 percent automated or self-driving and 50 percent human-driven and you get to the first traffic light that’s turning yellow. Human activity, human behavior is you speed up. Well, the self-driving cars are gonna be taught that the rules of traffic say you slow down. So my point was, you’ve got conflict ab initio as soon as you hit that inflection point. That’s when you start to see how the differential in the perception of the laws of the road and how they were interpreted by humans and by computers, that’s where it gets in the way. Now, when it’s a hundred percent automated and self cars are talking amongst each other, you know, just like the Jetsons and just like every sci-fi movie, you may not even need traffic signals, but until we get to that point, it’s gonna be complexity and increase the complexity on the roadways. Cause you can’t anticipate or take for granted what the vehicle in front of you is going to do as much as you can, which you really shouldn’t, but as much as you can today.
Pete Bigelow (28:17):
Okay, Greg, I think isn’t it interesting if we look at the crash reports that NHTSA put out last month about driver-assist systems and automated driving systems, exactly to your point, we see a lot of crashes driver-assist side that are related to the front end of the vehicle. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, and it’s the opposite on the autonomous driving side, we see a lot of vehicles that are rear-ended. That’s right. You know, it is this, how do, how do machines interact with people on the road? And I think that’s perhaps a very early glimpse at what that looks like. And there’s obviously a lot to study lot to learn along those lines.
Greg Winfree (28:54):
Absolutely; great point.
Bernie Fette (28:57):
You’ve both been in this transportation world for some time now. And I’m just wondering how and why did you end up on this path?
Greg Winfree (29:07):
Mine is quite a tortured path. <laugh> actually, you know, the bulk of my career has been as a litigation lawyer. Started at a firm, went to the Department of Justice and then I worked for three Fortune 500 companies. But I got a call when I was at the third one about opportunities in the Obama administration at the Department of Transportation. And I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but my thought process was, hmm, transportation. Well, let’s see, I got a license and I ride a motorcycle and I’ve piloted a boat, been on a plane, been on a bus, been on a train. How hard can it be? So I came aboard <laugh> as chief counsel of the research division. And 11 months later found myself as deputy and four months after that found myself as acting administrator. And it just was on an upward trajectory from there, but that was literally my thought process. Uh, I just wanted to continue as a public servant and put my shoulder to the wheel to help the American traveling public, but with respect to expertise, I had done. So it’s just been a tremendous, you know, opportunity to develop friendships with experts like Pete and you know, our colleagues and compatriots and other university transportation centers that have gotten me to this point.
Bernie Fette (30:31):
How did you end up here, Pete?
Pete Bigelow (30:33):
It’s a very different tortured path. It’s funny. I started out, I had kind of two career paths going out at the same time, one where I was a certified flight instructor by day. And I was very much interested in aviation. And by night I was a sports writer at the local paper. Uh, yes <laugh>. And so I, for a while, I was just kind of going down these sports writer journalism path and had an opportunity to start writing about the auto industry. And I, I will confess that at first I thought that sounds like a great stepping stone to writing about aviation and the, the long and short of it is I found this so interesting and compelling, writing about cars, that I I haven’t really ever gotten around to pursuing the writing about aviation part. I’ve just stayed at Automotive News and Car and Driver before that writing about ground-based transportation, I guess right now. Right. But I’m interested in all of it.
Bernie Fette (31:26):
I’m gonna wrap up with this one and I’m gonna ask each of you to give the other person a piece of advice. So you’re of course under no obligation to follow it, but it might be interesting just because you both have such unique perspectives on this topic. Pete, what do you wish that Greg and his colleagues would do more of in terms of research? And Greg, what do you wish that Pete would report and write about more?
Greg Winfree (31:57):
Bernie Fette (31:58):
You can flip a coin.
Greg Winfree (31:59):
Pete Bigelow (32:01):
That is a tough one, Bernie. You know, Greg, I think if I’m gonna take a stab at answering that now, and now that I’m on the spot here, uh, I think it may not be so much like a single issue that I would say, like, I recommend you delve into this more, but it is interesting to me, from my perspective. I’d love to see like more frequent research reports, you know, on a frequent basis. It’s so funny. There’s this rub between journalists and academics sometimes where, you know, I’ll talk to a professor or someone who’s put out a study and they’ll have spent 30 years or decades on this research and they really want to explain every detail. And I’m, I’m kind of like, great, I’ve got about a half hour to talk about this and then another half hour to write it. So what are the high points? And it’s so funny to always kind of have that push and pull. But so my point, I think is like a frequency of research that even if it’s like smaller scale, like I’d love to see more frequent updates from you and your colleagues writ large across academia. And I think that would be helpful for kind of at least getting snapshot glances of some of these big issues that we, that we’ve been talking about.
Greg Winfree (33:07):
No, that’s actually very well taken. And Pete, so my undergrad major was communications, but my focus was on broadcast journalism. So I got a little bit of a journalism bug and what I would say over the time since I graduated long ago from college to now is I’ve seen and it’s less so in print media and certainly less so in specialized print media, like, uh, the, the tremendous job y’all do with Automotive News, but, and you’ve seen this, reportage has turned more toward sensationalism and chasing the story and the facts get buried. So from where you sit, like I said, with the power of the pen, Automotive News, I would love to see just some evangelism about how do we get back to the basics of presenting data and information to the American public that isn’t from the, “if it bleeds, it leads” school of journalism. You know, cause there’s just a lot of information that gets lost. And a lot of prejudices that get built up depending on which flavor of the news you’re following, that only fuels divisiveness. And we can’t afford it in this era and I’m just talking in the transportation space, but we can’t afford it with the explosion of where mobility is headed. We need to be aligned. We need to have the same information and we need to be marching in the same direction before we fall behind countries we deem to be competitors friendly or not.
Bernie Fette (34:48):
Well, as I said, neither, one of you has to actually follow the advice that the other person has given you, but you’ve both been a good sport to walk down that path with me. Greg Winfree is the agency director at TTI. Pete Bigelow is a reporter for Automotive News and the host of “Shift, a podcast about mobility.” Gentlemen, this has been fun. This has been really interesting and enjoyable. Thank you both for sharing your time.
Greg Winfree (35:14):
Thank you, Bernie and Pete. So good to see you again and be in your company. I, I learn a lot whenever I have the benefit of being in your orbit so greatly appreciate it.
Pete Bigelow (35:24):
That’s a big compliment, Greg. And, uh, likewise, it’s great to see you and Bernie here today. I know I’ve learned a lot from your work at Texas A&M and, and being on the ground there as well. Uh, it’s been a few years now, but always look forward to hearing about the things that you are working on and look forward to staying in touch. Thanks for having me on today.
Bernie Fette (35:43):
Thanks again guys. And thanks also to our listeners for being here for another conversation about getting from point A to point B and all that happens in between. We hope that you’ll join us again next time. Thinking Transportation is a production of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a member of the Texas A&M University System. The show is edited and produced by Chris Pourteau. I’m your writer and host Bernie Fette. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.