TEDxWilmingtonSalon tackles privacy, tech and safety in transportation

TEDxWilmington yesterday held its fifth salon — a shorter, more focused version of the TEDx main event — at The Queen in downtown Wilmington. The afternoon event drew a mix of public officials, academics and business executives, all speaking on the future of transportation.

Despite coming from various backgrounds, the speakers addressed many of the same topics and themes. One technological shift, the self-driving car, dominated the event. Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, spoke about how the perception of safety will impact the speed at which automated vehicles are adopted, making careful development and roll-out essential. Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission, delved into the role of regulation in the emerging industry.

Another common topic was privacy and data. Multiple speakers highlighted how automobiles increasingly collect both environmental data and personal information. The idea is that more data will improve the safety of the driver, but sometimes this means trade-offs when it comes to privacy. Lauren Smith of the Policy Counsel of Future Privacy Forum, stressed the need to make these trade-offs transparent. James Koenig, attorney at Fenwick & West LLP, explored the nitty-gritty legal ramifications of smart data and autonomous vehicles.

Jennifer Cohen, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, was the sole Delaware speaker, and she used her talk to highlight some of the demographic changes and trends affecting transportation. She pointed out vehicle miles traveled are down, passenger rail ridership is up, and freight traffic is up. She said this reflects the growing influence of millennials. 

“My theory is it’s not necessarily a what that’s driving these trends,’ Cohen said. “It’s more like a who.”

The next TEDxWilmingtonSalon will take place November 28 and focus on technology and innovation. n.

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