T3e Webinar Overview

Solar-powered Automated Transit Networks: The Future of Sustainable Urban Transportation

Date:   Thursday, November 17, 2016
Time:  1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET
Cost:  All T3e webinars are free of charge
PDH:  1.0   View PDH Policy

T3 Webinars are brought to you by the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Professional Capacity Building (PCB) Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (U.S. DOT) ITS Joint Program Office (JPO). References in this webinar to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. DOT.


The webinar will present the concept of solar-powered automated transit networks (ATNs). It will discuss why solar-powered ATNs makes sense as the preferable alternative mode of transit for dense, urban areas; what unique advantages they have; and how they can integrate into existing urban environments. Also to be discussed are: the challenges facing implementation; how universities and students can make a difference in their development and implementation; and what actions interested viewers can take to make them a reality.

Learning Objectives

As a result of viewing the webinar, a viewer should be able to:

Target Audiences


Burford (Buff) Furman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, San José State University (SJSU)

photo of Buff Furman

Dr. Burford (Buff) Furman has been a professor of Mechanical Engineering at San José State University since 1994. Prior to SJSU, he worked in disk drive development at IBM in San José from 1982 to 1993. He has also been a registered professional mechanical engineer in the state of California since 1984. His areas of teaching and research are focused primarily in mechatronics, Automated Transit Networks (ATNs), precision machine design, and engineering measurements.

Dr. Furman was the Principal Investigator for a major study on the state of the ATN industry that was published by the Mineta Transportation Institute in 2014. Since 2012, he has been working intensely with the Spartan Superway project, an interdisciplinary research program focused on developing solar-powered ATNs.


Eric Hagstrom, Instructor, San José State University and General Manager for the Spartan Superway Project

photo of Eric Hagstrom

Mr. Eric Hagstrom received his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from San José State University in 2016, and is currently instructing senior mechanical engineering students working on the Spartan Superway project—a solar-powered automated transit network. In the summer, he manages the Spartan Superway International Research Internship Program (SSIRIP) that engages both international and domestic engineering students in interdisciplinary research and development for the Spartan Superway project. When Mr. Hagstrom is not spending time as an instructor, he is the General Manager for the Spartan Superway Project.

Shannon Sanders McDonald, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale

photo of Shannon McDonald

Shannon Sanders McDonald is a licensed architect and author of The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form. She has written several articles on automated transit networks and their impact on sustainability, community, and urban design. Ms. McDonald is guiding SIU undergraduate and graduate students, and online students from around the country in the areas of: integrating architecture, planning, transportation, sustainability and design, and creating new ideas for the future with architects in Sweden proposing designs for DriveLab at Arlanda airport.

Ms. McDonald is a frequent speaker on architecture, parking, transportation, sustainability, and community issues, presenting to many prominent affiliations such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the Transportation Research Board. Her work with the Transportation Research Board is now expanding to including workshops for the Metropolitan Planning Organizations around the United States on the topics of future mobility, resiliency, and community/urban design. Ms. McDonald is a 1992 graduate of the Yale School of Architecture.

Eric Rosenfeld, Mechanical Engineering Student, San José State University

photo of Eric Rosenfeld

Eric Rosenfeld is a Mechanical Engineering student studying at San José State University. In 2015, he received an award from San José State University as one of the most promising engineers. Mr. Rosenfeld graduated from Santa Barbara City College’s Middle College program as Senior of the Year. He has been granted membership to the National Society of High School Scholars, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Tau Beta Pi, and other honor societies due to his outstanding academic achievements.

Currently, Mr. Rosenfeld is working on solar power implementation for the Spartan Superway project. He is one of the authors of the team’s recent papers presented at Intersolar 2016 in San Francisco, California, and at the Podcar City 10 Conference in Antwerp, Belgium, on solar power installation for an Automated Transit Network. As one of the students working on the project, Eric is responsible for solar panel, electrical, and racking designs.

Ron Swenson, President, International Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST)

photo of Ron Swenson

Ron Swenson is President of the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation (non-profit), which has been a lead sponsor and advisor for the Spartan Superway and related student solar initiatives. The Institute organizes the annual international Podcar City Conference and has hosted leaders in automated public transit for 10 years in Europe and the USA.

Mr. Swenson has done extensive research and development in solar-powered transportation, building a prototype solar-powered electric tricycle, a solar race car in Mexico, several electric bicycles, and a solar-powered utility vehicle, all which served to speed the development of solar-powered automated public transit in conjunction with San José State University (2012-present). Mr. Swenson is also President of Swenson Solar, developer of commercial solar systems, and an ecovillage of approximately 100 solar-powered homes and apartments in Santa Cruz, California. He is a Fellow, Life member, and former Board member of the American Solar Energy Society.