Distinctly Montana Magazine

Distinctly Montana Fall 2020

Distinctly Montana Magazine

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w w w . d i s t i n c t l y m o n t a n a . c o m 85 INTERVIEW WITH DR. AHMED F. AL-KAISY TRANSPORTATION ENGINEER AND MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR Advanced transportation systems will make its way first to high populous states and regions but will certainly affect the movement of goods and people in Montana. Driverless commercial trucks are expected to move products and goods across our state and autono- mous mining operations are examples of the early manifestations of advanced transport systems to our state. Further, Montanans will enjoy a higher level of mobility and personal autonomy, thanks to the driverless transit and para-transit systems that will help spread the service to larger geographic areas. We may also see deploy- ments of other advanced applications such as driverless ride-share and taxi service programs (provided by giant corporations such as Uber) and e-commerce automated systems similar to the ones be- ing currently developed by Amazon and Alibaba. The autonomous systems in air and rail transport will be part of Montana's transpor- tation landscape as those systems provide service that goes well beyond the boundaries of our state. THERE HAS BEEN A BIG PUSH RECENTLY FOR ADDITIONAL PASSENGER TRAIN SERVICE IN MONTANA. DO YOU SEE THIS TREND CONTINUING? Unfortunately, in 2050 using rail transportation for moving people on fixed schedules and routes may not be a viable mode of transport, if not something from the past. The high level of mobility afforded by most Montanans then will simply diminish the market share for rail transportation. Nonetheless, rail transportation will still be a vital and inexpensive mode for transporting bulk goods through our state. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS MONTANA'S MOST SIGNIFICANT TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES IN 2050? I see two major challenges. The first is the dwindling government resources for maintaining a highway system that is critical to sup- port future smart technologies. A good proportion of the highway network in Montana are local roads and some are even unpaved which may hinder the application of automated systems in remote rural areas. The second challenge is the slow public acceptance of auton- omous systems with the perception that those technologies may disrupt the rural laid-back lifestyle many Montanans enjoy and may be unwilling to give up. HOW DO YOU IMAGINE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION WILL HAVE CHANGED IN MONTANA IN 2050? Public transportation will reach more and more citizens in our state. One of the current challenges in Montana is that public transport reach is limited to certain towns and communities and is not accessible by many Montanans. In 2050, extending public transport to areas further outside urban communities thus reach- ing a larger population in our state will happen with the dramatic decline in operating costs of automated systems. Further, public transportation will use clean energy that has zero impact on the environment. AHMED AL-KAISY is a transportation engineer and a professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. He also leads the safety and operations research at the Western Transportation Institute and is a registered professional engineer in Montana. Prior to joining Montana State University, Ahmed worked for universities in Canada and Illinois upon finishing his graduate studies. Besides teaching, he enjoys doing research with graduate and undergraduate students on various transportation top- ics and has widely published his work in scientific journals and conference proceedings. He has authored/co-authored more than a hundred publica- tions in his field along with tens of research reports working on projects for local, state and federal sponsors. Ahmed lives with his wife and three children in Bozeman, Montana.

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