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What the CHIPS Act Means for the Future of Transportation Infrastructure

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By Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager of New Network & Edge Markets, Smart Cities, and Intelligent Transportation

The infrastructure of tomorrow is as much about transistors and bytes as it is about cement and steel. In other words, digital technology must be fundamentally embedded within physical infrastructure.Picture2.jpg

The convergence of ITS World Congress last week, with Intel Innovation this week, had me recognizing how important these events are for accelerating transformation.

Many of us, when reflecting on the state of our local transportation infrastructure, are shocked by what we find. 1950’s era-- outdated foundations, oft-neglected roadways, and cities straining to meet the demands of surging populations and traffic flow pressures. As a result, the U.S. has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021 in order to put a renewed focus on improving the condition of our infrastructure, whilst improving its efficiency and effectiveness in the process. Similarly, the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS) was signed into law last month to invest in industries of the future and meet the needs of an increasingly digital society.

We cannot make digital infrastructure, or the “infrastructure of the future,” without chips, nor can we meet the demand for those chips without more capacity. IIJA and CHIPS, in combination, offers a higher rate of successful integration and resources than either Act on its own.

With new investments from the federal government, we’re finding ways to think smarter, not harder, in order to facilitate decades-needed improvements to all aspects and types of transportation. In a recent conversation with the National Governor’s Association, Intel CEO, Pat Gelsinger, reiterated this opportunity and the importance of technology in transportation infrastructure to stay competitive economically. We call this the digital infrastructure of transportation.

A general rule of thumb for digitized infrastructure is ‘dig once, upgrade as and when needed.’ As we look to the future of infrastructure, the digital element plays almost as critical a role as the physical infrastructure itself. Given the fact that connectivity and computing are both integral parts of our everyday lives, it makes sense to consider them in the approach to modernize and digitize our infrastructure as well.

Embedding compute in our infrastructure will result in intelligent systems that will continuously improve over time, with less lift required. Artificial intelligence improves over time as it “learns” our needs based on the data and trends it observes. In cities, this may mean analyzing traffic patterns to adjust the timing of traffic lights, easing congestion on roadways, and improving the flow of traffic across a city. Compute would lessen idle time and stop-and-go traffic, ultimately decreasing emissions put into the atmosphere. This is an added sustainability benefit.

This digital revolution to our transportation infrastructure expands beyond just our roads and bridges. The modernization of our ports is also critical to alleviating many global supply chain challenges, such as the ones resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, our railway infrastructure is plainly overdue for an upgrade. The digital opportunity of increasing the safety of our railway system isn’t just about replacing old parts for the structural integrity of our railways, it’s also about keeping them relevant and useful far into the future. With one of the largest investments to our critical infrastructure as well as our semiconductor industry happening within a year of one another, we have an opportunity to digitize many aspects of our transportation industry.

Transportation access is an on-ramp to economic opportunity, sustainability, and equity in our society. It enables access to education, skill development, meaningful jobs, and economic well-being. We have the unique opportunity to modernize and mobilize the industry by doubling down on IIJA and the CHIPS Act together. From here, we can build a legacy as the decade we laid the foundation for the next 50+ years of digital opportunities. Intel is eager to lean into this thrilling time as we explore the possibilities for infrastructure and digitization in combination.

For more information, visit www.intel.com/iija, or download our Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act eBook.

Recap on ITS World Congress to learn where you can start your “transformation by transportation” and visit Intel Innovation to register or watch on-demand sessions from this week’s event.