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May 21, 2018 | Tom Ballard

Collaboration recurring theme at recent TennSMART meeting

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Roughly 100 leaders from state and local government, business, universities and non-profit organizations gathered in Nashville last Thursday for a daylong discussion about intelligent mobility and its future in the Volunteer State.

The event was the spring meeting of the TennSMART members, an organization formally unveiled earlier this year (see our article). The group’s goal is to help shape the future of intelligent mobility through collaborative partnerships focused on developing scientific knowledge and new technologies that could change transportation.

Over a more than six-hour period, attendees heard a variety of speakers, both from Tennessee and beyond, that covered topics such as federal and state legislative considerations, impact of autonomous technologies on the trucking industry, solutions to large-scale problems, and the evolution of the mobile network operator in smart transportation.

The common and recurring theme was collaborating to overcome barriers and achieve goals.

In what might be described as the keynote session, Brad Rutherford, Vice President of Sales for Local Motors Inc., set the stage for the day’s discussions by describing the attendees as “a group of people that can make technology happen across the state (and) help the state become a better player. We don’t want to make the state a victim of autonomous vehicles.”

Rutherford introduced Joah Sapphire, Founder and President of Global Dynamic Group, LLC. In a talk peppered with many statistics, the Internet of Things subject matter expert and consultant described a rapidly evolving landscape that provides a real challenge for cities and states.

“When I flew into Nashville, I took a hybrid Lyft to an Airbnb,” Sapphire told the group. “In the future, we want to take a self-driving shuttle from the airport to Downtown Nashville.”

Describing the Olli that Local Motors is developing as “Mobility as a Service,” Sapphire asked the attendees to consider what it will take to make that a reality.

“The current landscape is a complex transportation network,” he said, noting everything from cars and trucks to bikes, public transit, and rail. “There’s almost 100,000 miles of roads in Tennessee and 71.1 billion vehicle miles traveled annually in the state.”

Noting that all of the key players were represented in the audience, Sapphire challenged the attendees to work together to marshal the resources needed to address looming challenges like bridge safety, fuel consumption, and the condition of the state’s roads.

“We need to combine the global footprint of our industry with those of state and local government,” he said. “These insurmountable obstacles (we face) can be overcome. Let’s leverage TennSMART in a coordinated fashion.”

The 20 founding members of the consortium include a number of Knoxville area organizations – DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, GRIDSMART Technologies Inc., Local Motors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority, and The University of Tennessee – and Top Five Inc., a Chattanooga area private equity firm. Other founders are Bridgestone Americas, Cummins Filtration Inc., FedEx Corporation, Lyft, Miovision Technologies, Nissan North America, Santec Consulting Services Inc., three State of Tennessee departments (Environment and Conservation, Labor and Workforce Development, and Transportation), and three other higher education entities (Tennessee Tech, University of Memphis, and Vanderbilt).

In photograph below, Joah Sapphire speaks at the TennSMART event.

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