Detroit — As the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress continues this week in Detroit, Jason JonMichael, HNTB national technology leader, says evolving attitudes toward connected vehicle technologies and the introduction of “big data” to transportation agencies will both have a major impact on how smart roads and smart cars evolve in the United States.

“If we are to see connected vehicle technology become as ubiquitous and lifesaving as stop lights, seat belts and air bags,” he said, “We must understand the general public’s views of its adoption, how agencies use the information it gathers, and how we communicate the benefits.”

While a recent America THINKS transportation technology survey found many Americans craving more technology to keep them safe and informed when they hit the road, that preference is stronger among younger adults. For example, more 18-54-year-olds than those 55+ (45 percent versus 30 percent) would like a notification when there’s a change in speed limit. And close to 6 in 10 (59 percent) 18-44-year-olds have relied on GPS in the last month, versus 35 percent of those 45+.

According to JonMichael, this sentiment is particularly strong among the country’s 77 million Millennials, who currently represent 24 percent of the U.S. population and are roughly the same size as the Baby Boomer generation.

“We all know what an impact Baby Boomers had on the way products and services are bought and sold in this country,” said JonMichael. “As we move into the smart car and smart road era, Millennials will represent more purchasing power than any other demographic unit.”

And Millennials have a more of a positive view of how technology is affecting their lives than any other generation. In fact, HNTB’s survey showed more 18-34-year-olds (71 percent versus 65 percent of those 35+) would spend additional money on roads and bridges if it went toward funding connected vehicle integration. And they are more likely than their older counterparts (64 percent versus 58 percent) to want to put this extra cash into taxes (gas, sales, income and property tax) for this purpose.

However, while Millennials tend to adopt technology at a higher rate than other generations, they tend not to understand current transportation funding challenges very well, such as the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

“We need to understand the characteristics of the generation to better envision how they will impact transportation in the future, and how we can help them understand the importance of a connected, multimodal transportation system,” JonMichael said.

The value of “big data”

While connected vehicles and infrastructure will change the driving experience for everyday Americans, it also will change the way transportation agencies work by providing a huge influx of information about roadway and local weather conditions, traffic volumes, accidents and how drivers are interacting with all of it.

“The big “V” in big data is value,” JonMichael said. “It’s important for all of us in the transportation industry not to get lost in the ones and zeros of big data. Rather, we need to understand how to organize and get the most out of this flood of information.”

Recent forecasts suggest that there will be more than 150 million actively connected vehicles on roads globally by 2020. Those vehicles could generate more than 11 petabytes of data on an annual basis, or about 30 terabytes a day from the ongoing deployment of new telematics systems, adaptive driver assistance systems, autonomous safety systems and other applications, electronic components and gadgets.

JonMichael said that data will enable new opportunities to increase safety and reduce traffic congestion ­ and increase U.S. economic competitiveness through services such as predictive travel and traffic management. “Ask freight shippers or logistics companies how much they value accurate predictive travel times as a time saving measure, and they will likely respond with, ‘It’s not how much money I save with the additional time, it’s how much more money I can make with that time savings.’”

About the survey

HNTB’s America THINKS transportation technology survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,042 Americans June 5-10, 2014. It was conducted by Kelton, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.