By: Timothy G. Brandstetter, P.E., PTOE

I had breakfast the other day with a gentleman who posed an interesting question. He asked, “When working with clients, how often do you push new technology compared to meeting them where they are?” I loved that question because it forced me to contemplate.
As an engineer, a lot of our profession is to look out for the safety, health, and welfare of the general public. Does technology help achieve that goal? Absolutely. One of the core beliefs of Brandstetter Carroll, Inc. is that we improve the quality of life for communities through our Engineering projects. Does technology help achieve that goal? Absolutely. But how does the question manifest itself in day-to-day interactions with the communities we work with?
Upon reflection, several projects came to mind that were illuminative of this topic. When working on one of the first diverging diamond interchanges in Georgia, it became apparent that this new roadway design was promising but needed a lot of public education and outreach to be a success. In developing a traffic signal optimization approach for a client in Michigan that linked freeway and arterial operations, it became clear that the communication network and technology upgrades could achieve that goal. However, it also became apparent that the implementation and execution had to be done in such a way that the traffic operators would be able to adopt and utilize the technology.
In some instances, technology isn’t pushed by a public agency but forced upon them. Recent growth of technology within mobility services have begun to shape communities in terms of curb management, traffic operations, and parking. Communities have to be aware and proactive with both infrastructure upgrades, and policy to fully capture the benefits of this technology.
To circle back to the presented question, as engineers we push technology if it can help solve the need of a community, but need to be cognizant that the technology itself will not be successful unless we also push the human capital and public support for technology advances.