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May 21, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Ecosystem is considered ‘key’ to integrating sustainable transportation innovations

In the first full day of the CO.LAB's CO.MOBILITY Summit, speakers shared their thoughts on the ecosystem's collaboration toward key initiatives.

The future of mobility was the driving force behind conversations at The Company Lab’sCO.MOBILITY Summit”. Depending on who you ask, the future looks a bit different. Some people feel passionate about expanding the electric vehicle (EV) market, which includes investing in more charging stations and sustainable battery types. Others believe that fiber networks and quantum technologies are the key to building out effective transportation systems. Most would admit that it’s a balance between the two, accompanied by investing in the ecosystem.

To kick off the breakout sessions on Tuesday morning, Steve Greenfield General Partner with Automotive Ventures shared the current state of mobility in the United States.

Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield

“We are behind. Only about 10 percent of passenger cars sold in the US are EVs. Half of those cars are made by Tesla. Whereas, if you look at China, 40 percent of the cars sold are electric, from a broad array of brands,” Greenfield said.

One of the issues, Greenfield said, could be our lack of charging infrastructure and cost to the consumer. But, he also shared that the change needs to happen soon, otherwise there will be an even bigger price to pay.

TEAM TN couldn’t agree more. The group was formed to address major issues in the transportation sector, including decreasing the carbon footprint for the betterment of the planet and increasing sustainable innovation in mobility.

The group – including Kevin Heaslip, was active in leading the conversation about smart transportation in Tennessee. With partners from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and more, there’s a lot of momentum behind mobility initiatives.

“Everything is going to get smarter, from stop lights to vehicles. We just cannot snap our fingers and implement things overnight. We need to have an ecosystem that develops, encourages, and makes people feel comfortable them,” Heaslip said.

Kevin Heaslip
Kevin Heaslip

TEAM TN hones in on the partnership side of bringing sustainable mobility visions to life in the state, but one day they hope it becomes more self-sufficient.

“We hope the ecosystem doesn’t always need a central force. Ideally, out of TEAM TN, it would cultivate traction, businesses, and collaboration. I think the ingredients are all here for a great ecosystem, we just have to capitalize on them,” Heaslip said.

When asked about his expectations for the next five years, Heaslip said those more mature partnerships would be at the top of his list. The full implementation of smart systems, EVs, and autonomy may come later down the line.

“The future is autonomy. But, right now, people are afraid of it… why?” Greenfield asked in his session.

He shared statistics about 42,000 Americans who lost their lives in automobile accidents in 2022, compared to zero deaths in autonomous vehicles in the same year. Yet, people are still nervous about the application.

“Right now, we’re seeing the most autonomous interaction in mining, construction, and agriculture, and industries that don’t interfere with people,” Greenfield said. “It’s going to take a few more years for the general public to be comfortable with the idea.”

Regardless of the innovation, the common thread for implementation was ecosystem support, advocacy, and education. Both Heaslip and Green agreed: if we can accomplish those three things, the rest comes naturally.

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