ITS Congress ever-present Eric Sampson reflects on nearly 30 years of cutting edge technology talk

He’s believed to be the only person in the world who has been to every in-person ITS World and European Congress, and as he retires from actively planning the events, Professor Eric Sampson has given an interview about his long career.

Ahead of next week’s ITS European Congress in Lisbon, for which Prof Sampson has again acted as Senior Programme Adviser, has told ERTICO – ITS Europe about how the congresses came about in the early 1990s.

“The notion of ‘an ITS Congress’ was first proposed by a Japanese Professor who believed that all stakeholders would benefit from coming together under one roof to share ideas and thoughts,” he says. “It emerged during an international conference where a group of us discussed the problems of planning and managing transport: demand outrunning not just supply but Society’s ability to pay and Society’s willingness to accept the intrusion of transport infrastructure.  We rapidly realised we all had the same problems, thought we had some of the answers and knew we did not have the time, the money, or the skilled people to test all possible options before committing ourselves technically, politically or financially.”

In the interview he talks about how the industry has changed from initially focussing on technology opportunities, such as improvements in position fixing and advancements in communications technologies which emerged from declassified defence material, through the importance of looking from the users’ perspectives began to appear to the latest emerging technologies around 5G, big data analytics to process and find patterns, and AI and the IoT.

Prof Sampson also reflects on his favourite moments since the first Congress in Paris in 1994, including the opening ceremony in London 2006 when “Sitting there quietly, we suddenly heard the ‘tick tick’ of a drummer’s sticks and then a glorious wall of sound from (half of) the Band of the Grenadier Guards.”

He even discusses his collection of colourful ties.

You can read the full interview here.

Highways News will be reporting from the ITS European Congress in Lisbon next week, supporting the UK Pavilion led by the Transport Technology Forum. Prof Sampson is due to give further reflections on a Highways Voices podcast being produced in the Portuguese capital.

(Picture – Eric Sampson)


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