Reimagining Infrastructure at Autodesk University

Civil & Surveying

Transforming the way we plan, design and build, Autodesk University 2017 did not fail to stimulate learning, energize new ideas, and inspire belief that, together with our customers, we can imagine, design and create a better world.

The atmosphere at Autodesk University 2017 was electric and thought provoking.  The exhibit hall was buzzing with the sound of drones flying overhead, mindboggling AR/VR experiences, and fascinating displays that lent insight into the future of construction.

For infrastructure, there were sessions to discuss ongoing industry concerns such as how to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population and the impacts of rapid urbanization and climate change to cities.  We celebrated leaders in the industry who are already making great strides to reimagine how they plan, design and build their infrastructure projects of the future.  There were exhibits that presented advances in AR/VR, drone based photo and laser scanning technologies, generative design, and machine learning.  We connected, shared experiences and knowledge, and we had fun!  I certainly hope you did also.

Here are some of my reflections on this year’s AU…

Transportation Summit

This year’s Transportation Summit attracted the largest customer audience ever.  Former United States Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, set the stage for the event, making the point that advances in technology are just a piece of the puzzle to address today’s global infrastructure challenges.  Clearly, BIM and emerging technologies are important enablers, but we must facilitate new approaches to planning, design and construction.  The question really is how do we use drones, reality capture, AR/VR, IoT, and other innovations to develop more sustainable and resilient infrastructure yet optimize their operations and longevity.

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the Transportation Summit.

Mr. Foxx also spoke to the importance of making every dollar allocated to transportation count.  We are acutely aware just how much current budgets don’t meet the global infrastructure demands, resulting in a $1 Trillion gap.  This strikes right at the core theme of this year’s AU and Andrew’s key message– how can we do MORE, BETTER, with LESS.

The AEC Excellence Awards

For me, celebrating the accomplishments of our customers is the highlight of AU.  The AEC Excellence Awards sets no finer venue to distinguish leaders in the AEC industry.  Nothing excited me more than to recognize the finalists in the infrastructure category and to announce the winners.  It is truly impressive how firms working on these projects put our solutions to work in order to meet their project requirements in ways that were socially, economically and environmentally responsible.  At the same time, they designed some truly amazing airports, roads, railways, tunnels and parks.

Foster + Partners and FR-EE receive 1st Place for the Mexico City Airport project.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and special compliments to the winners – Foster + Partners and FR-EE for the Mexico City Airport, which will be one of the world’s largest airports; LiRo Group for the East Side Access project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the U.S.; and, finally, Norconsult from Norway for their work on one of Northern Europe’s most trafficked single-track rail tunnels, the Ulriken Tunnel.

Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de Mexico (NAICM). Image courtesy of Foster + Partners


Among the announcements at AU, the Esri partnering announcement was a huge win for our customers.  I firmly believe the convergence of BIM+GIS will help transform the way they plan and operate their infrastructure assets of the future.  Coverage by industry media, from to ZDNet, has been extremely positive, bolstering our belief in the promise of this partnership.  More importantly, the direct feedback I received from some of our largest and most influential customers only reinforced this was the right decision for the industry, our customers, and of course, Autodesk.  We are eager to move this partnership beyond improved interoperability to developing new market opportunities through the convergence of BIM+GIS.

Andrew Anagnost and Jack Dangermond at the AEC Technology Keynote explain how the Autodesk+Esri collaboration aligns with their respective corporate visions and what it means to our customers.


The Exhibit Hall at AU was a homage to our customers’ fabulous work.  As Amy Bunszel put it, we are simply co-pilots in their journey.  Experiencing the creativity and innovations with which our customers leverage our solutions is inspiring.  There was a model of the AEC Excellence award winning Mexico City Airport, immersive virtual reality experiences of dams and bridges, explorations of the use of drones – including our very own Drone Zone: a giant cage where we flew drones over and around a scale model of the Glen Canyon Dam, and so much more.  I am proud to be a co-pilot to our infrastructure customers.  The whole Autodesk infrastructure team looks forward to continuing this journey with our customers, together, facing the challenges that plague the industry and to reimagine the future of infrastructure.

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