Leaders Explore Possibility of Knoxville Becoming a Self-Driving and Connected Vehicle Testbed

After delivering remarks to Intersect attendees, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero met with nationally recognized transportation leaders to discuss the viability of Knoxville, TN becoming a testbed for companies conducting research on connected and self-driving vehicles.

Among those in attendance were The Alliance for Transportation Innovation CEO Paul Brubaker, Utah Department of Transportation Director Carlos Braceras, Contra Costa Transportation Authority Executive Director Randy Iwasaki, Intelligent Transportation Society of America CEO Regina Hopper and GRIDSMART CEO Bill Malkes.

Several cities including Ann Arbor, MI, Contra Costa, CA, and Tampa, FL have already established test beds on both public and private roads. Those test beds are creating new economic development in their regions. The discussion in the room noted that few if any can offer researchers all of the assets of Knoxville including a four-season climate, hills/flat land, city/rural environments and a nearby technology hub.

Mayor Rogero said before the meeting, “Connected and self-driving vehicles are on the cutting edge of transportation and with our existing high-tech industry and diverse geography, we may have a unique opportunity to build a new industry right here in Knoxville led by companies like GRIDSMART,” she said. “While this is just a discussion,” she continued that we’ve got “the right people in the room to consider the viability of this opportunity.”

All agreed that while there is great potential for a testbed and that more research is needed to determine what the next steps should be.