Reaching Beyond the ‘Auto’-Scope for Answers

EcoCAR 2 and its predecessors have many lessons to teach the students involved in the competition. One of these fundamental lessons is the societal need to work collaboratively in order to move forward.

Gregory DiLoreto, President-Elect for American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), visited Mississippi State University recently to speak about ASCE’s Vision for 2025. A few students from the MSU EcoCAR 2 team went to gain insight on ASCE’s plan for the future and how that may affect the future of auto-makers.

While ASCE may not partake in the actual manufacturing of cars, they certainly play a huge role in a vehicle’s life post-production. The roadways, highways, bridges and infrastructure people use every day are designed and thought out by the professionals that make up ASCE. MSU team members thought it would be a great opportunity to jump into a forward-thinking discussion about what the future holds for both the auto industry and America’s transportation infrastructure.

However distant the two may seem, they are interdependent. The way vehicles are manufactured can have significant implications on how the transportation systems are constructed, designed and arranged, and the same goes for the inverse relationship as well. Strides made in America’s physical infrastructure set the standards for vehicle performance.

One specific issue impacts both parties equally though, and that is the need to create and live in a more sustainable world for the future. For EcoCAR 2, the connection is clear, but it may not be so apparent when it comes to ASCE. However, ASCE plans to be a big part in the sustainable effort. The organization has set forth new goals and grading systems with regards to roadways and energy in America. President-Elect DiLoreto stressed the need for new infrastructure to have a significantly longer lifespan than previous infrastructure did. ASCE put out its 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure which awarded a ‘D+’ for Energy and a ‘D-’ for Roads in America.

ASCE views sustainability in a triple bottom line concept – encompassing environmental, economic, and social aspects – all three of which the DOE’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) have met head-on. AVTCs take into consideration the socio-economic condition of Americans and populations all over the world before going to the drawing board. Each team, MSU included, strives to create a vehicle that the end consumer would not only buy, but also find great value in using day-in and day-out. The road to sustainability will be paved through the cross-leadership of organizations like that of EcoCAR 2 and ASCE, but it will require a high level of collaboration and communication across all fields of study before sustainability can truly be achieved and maintained.