Jon Newhard Yunex Traffic

INTERVIEW: Yunex Traffic’s new CEO Jon Newhard

Friday, 12 April 2024
Ahead of Intertraffic Amsterdam Jon Newhard, the newly appointed CEO of Yunex Traffic, gives Tom Stone his first full interview in his new role, providing insight into his career history and passions, his vision for the future of mobility and what he’s looking forward to at his first major industry event

Jon Newhard has been CEO of Yunex Traffic for less than two months, officially taking up his new role on 1 March 2024. Nevertheless, he’s already fully emersed in the industry, with this new leadership position representing a natural progression for his career so far.

When I catch up with Newhard on Zoom he’s already settling into his new office at Yunex Traffic HQ in Munich (where he’s relocated to from his homeland of the USA) and brimming with enthusiasm for the dynamic and exciting mobility industry.

His first major event as Yunex Traffic’s new leader is now fast approaching. "I've never been to Intertraffic Amsterdam before," says Newhard. "This will be my first one, so it’s going to be a really fun one. Coming together for industry events like Intertraffic Amsterdam is important. There's a lot to learn from customers, business partners, and colleagues."

For Newhard it will represent an opportunity to meet some of his own staff for the first time, although as the company employs around 3,500 people, it’s not a process he can hope to complete at one event, especially as he’ll also be on the lookout for new partnership opportunities. If you don’t see him on the Yunex Traffic stand you might spot him in the ITSUP startup area.

"I won’t always be on our stand at Intertraffic because I love walking shows, because you learn a lot, particularly from startups," says Newhard. "Technology doesn't necessarily have to be invented at Yunex Traffic to be good. We should be very open minded about who we work with, and make sure that it's about solving the right problems."

Starting out

Following Newhard’s early, successful career in the US Army, an era that coincidently also saw him based in Germany, he quickly developed an interest in the business world. Newhard describes himself a “software guy” and studying for an MBA at Harvard Business School he specialized in business enterprise software.

But, while at Harvard he also developed a keen interest in the public sector and the workings of government. “I'm a total policy nerd,” he says. “So I'd also sneak across the Charles River and take classes at the Kennedy School. I was always allowed – for whatever stupid reason, certainly not my charm! – I was always allowed to overload and take classes at the Kennedy School, I just love that stuff. I was always drawn to B2G stuff.”


After his studies Newhard carried this love of business-to-government through into his career, heading up enterprise software firm Siebel Systems as its regional development manager, based in Washington DC.
Such was Newhard’s interest in the workings of government that when the opportunity presented itself to get involved in local politics, as the treasurer of Chevy Chase, Maryland, he couldn’t say no. “My next-door neighbour, who was in the younger Bush administration, a very classical neocon, and my other next-door neighbour, who was a full-on hippie, like literally the furthest left and the furthest, right, they both said, ‘Jon, you should go for it.’ So I ran in this election, because I was just trying to do the right thing.”

Situated on the border of Washington, DC, Chevy Chase may not be the most renowned locality. "Most people say, ‘Wasn’t he an actor?'," says Newhard. Nonetheless, after winning the election, his tenure as treasurer proved to be both enriching and rewarding (although not financially, as it was a voluntary role).

Jon Newhard

Nehward found this time helped to emphasise for him the value of public service. "If you care about your community, it's a great way to serve it,” he says. “It’s a great way to get to know people." 
His foray into local government revealed to Newhard the significance of fiscal responsibility and community concerns like traffic management. "You have to ask, where are you spending money? Does it do any good? And people care a lot about traffic," he saus. This interest in traffic management later culminated in an opportunity to lead Trafficware, a prominent player in the US market.

Into ITS

At Trafficware, Newhard's focus wasn't solely on technology but also on the broader impact on society, leveraging technology to address pressing issues like mobility, safety, and environmental concerns. "What do you really care about? Are you actually keeping traffic moving? Are you keeping the streets safe? Let's invest in new technology that can do those things.”

Under his leadership, Trafficware expanded its reach domestically as well as internationally undertaking projects internationally in places like Egypt, Italy, and India. 
"Bringing American traffic technology to emerging markets has always been my passion," says Newhard. 

He reflects on his experiences in places like Cairo, Egypt, where outdated traffic management systems posed significant risks and implementing state-of-the-art solutions was deeply satisfying as it enhanced safety and efficiency. Although Newhard stresses that emerging markets require a much larger hardware investment when compared to developed markets, where new solutions can be more software led. “Moving American traffic technology to Cairo means building 300lb P44 cabinets, putting them on trucks and boats, shipping them to Alexandria, and then moving them down to Cairo, it’s very big, heavy infrastructure,” he says.


Now, leading Yunex Traffic is something of a dream job for Newhard, not least because of its comprehensive ITS toolkit, which includes everything from traffic controllers to meet standards in regions all across the world to cutting-edge adaptive software systems. "We have a lot in our toolkit. We have a lot that we can offer. We also have really knowledgeable, really dedicated employees,” he says. “And so you look at that combination of things. And if you like this space, this is the job you would want. Right? And so… I'm not totally stupid. So, this is the job that I want!”

Looking ahead, Newhard outlines his vision for Yunex Traffic, emphasizing the importance of context and thoughtful decision-making. He expresses a keen interest in policy and emphasizes the broader impact of technology on mobility and livable cities. "This is about mobility. It's about livable cities. It's about greenery," he says, highlighting the need to consider these factors in product development and market strategies.

In his approach to leadership, Newhard prioritizes understanding before action, citing the importance of context and humility. He emphasizes the need to grasp the intricacies of each market and technology's role in addressing broader societal challenges. "Understand before you seek to be understood," he says, reflecting on his methodology for navigating complex issues and driving meaningful change.

AI ready?

With artificial intelligence very much at the forefront of discussions around new technology in all fields at present Newhard believes that the role of AI in transportation management will undoubtedly continue to expand, though points to the classic Gartner Hype Cycle as an indication that we could currently be in the era of maximum hype, which typically proceeds more realistic understanding of technological limitations.

He believes AI will continue to be integrated into transportation systems and will be particularly useful in areas such as predictive analytics of traffic flows, but cautions against assuming that all AI applications will be relevant to transportation management.


"For our space, generative AI generating PowerPoints isn't remotely interesting," he says. He emphasizes the importance of practicality and safety, particularly in coding processes. In transportation management, where the stakes are high and safety is paramount, rigorous testing by humans in the real world will continue to be essential.

As AI continues to evolve and integrate into transportation management, Newhard's insights underscore the importance of thoughtful consideration and practical application in harnessing its potential benefits while mitigating risks.

A positive future

Reflecting on his career philosophy, Newhard emphasizes the importance of leaving a positive legacy. "If you make an impact while you're schlepping this pebble and living, that's actually, to me, what’s important," he says. His story serves as a testament to the power of combining knowledge with a genuine desire to effect meaningful change.

As Yunex Traffic embarks on its next chapter under Newhard's leadership, his blend of passion, expertise, and strategic vision sets the stage for continued growth and innovation in the intelligent transportation systems sector.

Don’t miss Yunex Traffic at Intertraffic Amsterdam Stand 01.327
Tom Stone is editor of TTi and Intertraffic World 


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