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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

VIDEO: Civil Engineering Student Leverages Networking to Develop Transportation Solutions

By Keith Pierce

From Uber, Lyft and bike-sharing to smart traffic lights and unmanned mass transit, artificial intelligence is transforming how we get around. Just ask Andrew Bunn, an Old Dominion University senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering who's been dubbed the "student transportation engineering expert" by Intelligent Transportation Systems Magazine, for which he has written two feature articles.

"I had sort of an interest in traffic engineering, but it wasn't very strong until I went to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association annual meeting to receive a scholarship from them," Bunn said. "That experience unlocked this whole world of intelligent transportation systems that I had no idea about before the conference."

The conference focused on Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which refers to how technology is accelerating the shift from privately owned vehicles to alternatives such as ride-sharing and public transportation. The Virginia Beach native credits his success at that meeting, which led to the published articles, to networking skills he learned at ODU.

"It was really all about networking," he said. "Once I got to the meeting, it was about interacting with as many people as I could, shaking as many hands as I could and just connecting with new people who could offer me opportunities like that."

His first article addressed the ethical implications of intelligent transportation systems when data-hungry tech companies swallow smaller start-ups.

"The most important thing for the MaaS industry right now is that its members prepare for a much more competitive future," Bunn wrote. "It is vital that we find a way to preserve the 'coopetition' culture even when MaaS is swallowed by aggressive, cutthroat growth companies like Google, Amazon and Tesla."

Bunn's second feature focused on security and ethics. From how a product might infringe on an individual's personal information to how and where that data is shared, Bunn warns ITS companies to be mindful of where consumers may draw the line between privacy and convenience.

"There is an increasing wealth of information available to create personalized transport solutions - and the possibilities are exciting, but ITS companies have a duty to be explicit in explaining what people's data is going to be used for," he wrote. "Those currently investing their time and money into furthering MaaS need to prepare for this tidal wave and be ready to ride it."

Published articles aren't the only thing that came as a result of Bunn's networking. He has been an intern scholar with the Virginia Department of Transportation since his sophomore year, which came with tuition assistance and a guaranteed full-time job after graduation.

"I got the VDOT internship through my interactions at the career fair, and that's when I realized how important networking was," Bunn said. "So, it's directly translated from the ODU career fair three years ago to a job in the field that I want as soon as I graduate."

"Andrew is an exemplary student," said Sherif Ishak, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "He did what we expect every student in the civil engineering department to do. He was aggressive. He went out on his own to find opportunities in the industry to explore and discovered his passion for the field of transportation."

"Had it not been for my ODU experiences, I would never have encountered the opportunities that got me to where I am now," Bunn said. "And there is a very good chance I would not have discovered the passion I have for ITS and transportation."

Read Bunn's article here: http://tinyurl.com/ITSBunn, http://tinyurl.com/ITSBunn2.

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