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Recap: A Vision for Future Mobility in Tennessee
Tennessee is currently number one in the Southeast for automotive manufacturing, but the Volunteer State has the ability to be number 1 in the world with the right work in the right areas.
On December 1, Kevin Heaslip, Director of the Center for Transportation Research, spoke at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy about research at the university level, what the next generation of technology looks like, and what the goal is for Tennessee in this increasing market.
The goal for the future of automotive technology within Tennessee is to create an ecosystem that encourages collaboration within research environments and private sectors and develop an industry accessible to everyone.
The University of Tennessee will hopefully be a leader in this space and use the collective knowledge and capabilities of the university and universities around the state to propel the way, according to Heaslip.
Currently, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville has some of the top material and supply chain management programs and leadership in electric vehicles (EVs) and sustainable transportation in the country. According to Heaslip, the state of Tennessee provides a base for this development, housing 903 companies involved in manufacturing and ranking eighth in non-industry research and development.
Within the development of sustainable transportation, there are three primary areas of technology that the next generation will be focused on: electronic vehicles, cyber security, and automation.
EV development has focused on creating an easier environment for these types of cars to exist and lowering the cost. The cost of electronic vehicles tends to be higher, causing fewer people to buy them. Changing the battery materials and manufacturing batteries domestically will lower the cost, also allowing the US to be less dependent on foreign supply chains. Even if someone might be able to afford an EV, they still need an available and fast charging station, something that brings its own challenges.
Cyber security has not kept up as the auto industry continues to develop. A study of automotive security professionals found that 63 percent test less than half of their technology for security vulnerabilities while 84 percent claim to worry about the lackluster pace of cyber security. A new problem arises as automation technology develops without proper cyber security. Those technology-driven vehicles are then vulnerable to cyber-attack.
Automated vehicles are much closer than people realize. In fact, one of the main problems holding automation back is cost, Heaslip said. Most of these vehicles are reliant on laser technology, one of the most expensive parts of automated vehicles. In addition, there is a lack of cooperation between different organizations. These developers are keeping their technology within their own organizations, meaning there is no cross-development among companies.
Currently, one of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry in Tennessee is the workforce. “We’ve found the people that are easy to find,” Heaslip commented. Companies have found those available individuals that can be put in the community or technical colleges, but companies cannot find anyone else with the credentials needed. Heaslip suggested that universities and companies need to work together to bring these opportunities to all Tennesseans.