Las Vegas — A proposal to develop surge-priced “Hyperlanes” to ease congestion and improve mobility took home top honors at the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge Finale Event.
Judges representing a broad swath of industry and policy leaders awarded $50,000 to Baiyu Chen and Anthony Barrs from the University of California at Berkeley for their proposal to build new infrastructure to allow autonomous vehicles to travel at high speeds along existing roadways, and to guard against congestion in the Hyperlanes by using surge pricing.
“It’s really exciting to see that our idea was recognized by some of the biggest names in the industry, and especially here at CONEXPO-CON/AGG,” Chen said following the competition.
The prize marked the culmination of two years’ worth of work by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) to generate crowdsourced solutions to address the future of infrastructure here in America, and throughout the world. The campaign’s three phases – Complain, Dream, and Build – drew hundreds of ideas from across the world about how to revolutionize infrastructure, manufacturing and construction.
The awards on Wednesday capped the competition. Judges from the Brookings Institution, Local Motors, the College for Creative Studies, Bechtel Corporation and the Las Vegas Monorail Company heard pitches from five finalists (who traveled to Las Vegas from destinations as far as Uganda) who competed for a total of $100,000 in prize money.
Taking home second prize was Peter Muller of Denver, who proposed building an automated transit network (ATN) known as the SmART Driverless Vehicle System. Third place went to Kevin Lu, the founder of Pyro-E, a company that designs and builds solid-state energy properties. Lu proposed an “Adaptive Pavement System” that would automate traffic to reduce congestion.
“AEM believes there is a more innovatie way to move people from their Starting Point A to their Destination Point Z, and to do it more quickly, efficiently, effectively and safely than today’s systems,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, and a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post. “AEM wants to facilitate this change. They want to start the conversation that will lead to productive solutions going forward.”
Other finalists included Ugandan Micheal Ahimbisibwe, who envisioned an infrastructure system that would ease congestion using vehicle metadata, and Jeremy Martinez from Los Angeles, who advocated for using monorail to ease urban congestion.
The winners, Chen and Barrs, had learned about the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge through Berkeley’s college of engineering, where Chen is pursuing doctorate work. Chen and Barrs, an MBA student at Cal, had discussed the prospect of entering the challenge during their running club.
Their ideas took hold as they sought to compete in the additional phases of the Challenge, as their Hyperlanes proposal eventually earned them a spot at the finale at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 in Las Vegas.
The duo wants to take their winning idea and potentially advance it as a business and policy proposal, especially as the administration of President Donald Trump examines public-private partnership options to support infrastructure development.
“There is a lot of talk in D.C. about public-private partnerships. This would be an optimal opportunity for that, because it’s revenue-generating and low-risk,” Barrs said. “So if we can find that intersection of public-private partnerships and entities like Uber and Lyft, we think that’s a sweet spot that could really help to push this forward.”
As to how they would celebrate the big win, Barrs laughed: “I mean, we’re in Vegas.”