Stephen Ezell and Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation—a think tank focusing on tech policy—have an idea that they believe would improve U.S. infrastructure: create a “Race to the Digital Top” to pilot intelligent transportation technology in six cities. Like its educational counterpart, the program would be a competitive grant run by the federal government. Ezell and Atkinson first proposed the idea in a working group at a symposium sponsored by the Milstein Commission on Infrastructure and Middle-Class Jobs. I recently spoke to Ezell, ITIF’s vice president of global innovation policy, about the idea. Our exchange has been edited and condensed.
What are the problems this proposal is trying to tackle?
The goal is to bring more intelligence, safety, and efficiency to America’s transportation system. Whether that’s real-time traffic information that helps drivers plot a better route to their destination, whether it’s smart traffic signals that turn green when there’s nobody else around you to let you go on your way, traffic lights that are integrated with emergency vehicles so an ambulance can get straight through, or information about traffic flow so transportation systems managers can make better decisions on whether to build new roadways—the point is, it’s about leveraging tools that exist to bring intelligence and efficiency to transportation systems. It’s primarily to create a platform for the application of proven, existing technologies.