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Books offers broader context for transportation

In his new book, Professor Joseph Sussman says the future of transportation lies in its evolution to the field of engineering systems, which puts complex technological systems and products in their broader contexts.

Introduction to Transportation Systems (Artech House) describes transportation in its social, political and economic contexts. Professor Sussman developed the material through lectures he gave in his "Introduction to Intelligent Transportation Systems" subject, which is required by all first-year graduate students in the Master of Science in Transportation program.

Early examples of this transition in transportation, he said, are the study of urban transportation networks as complex adaptive systems, and expansion of the study of freight carriers to consider the full logistics supply chain.

Professor Sussman believes his approach to transportation systems has parallels in other engineering areas. "The future of several fields -- including energy and environmental systems, manufacturing systems and others -- depends on addressing them in the broader context of engineering systems.

"When I began work on this text in 1995," said Professor Sussman, the JR East Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division (ESD), "ESD was but a gleam in the collective eye of some MIT faculty. By the time I completed the book, ESD was a reality and it occurred to me that the book showed how a particular field -- transportation -- could be studied as an engineering system.

"My fondest wish is that colleagues at MIT and at other universities see this text as a useful model of how they might approach their fields within an engineering systems framework. Such approaches would give us a common basis for discussing our disparate fields and would allow us all to deepen our understanding of the importance of engineering systems."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 10, 2001.

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