Self-Driving Senior Shuttles Coming to Detroit

By Joe Guillen, Axios

Self-driving shuttles for older people and those with disabilities should be available in the city late next year.

Driving the news: City Council approved a $2.5 million contract last week with Ann Arbor-based May Mobility to provide free autonomous rides to the store, doctor’s office or other places for people 65 and older and those living with disabilities.

Why it matters: The project advances Detroit’s goal of being a leader in transportation innovation and should supplement the city’s troubled paratransit program.

State of play: Vehicle safety testing and development of the service’s mobile app starts this fall. Shuttles are expected to be available in spring 2024.

  • Research for the project began last year and is funded through 2026 with the help of a federal automated driving grant.
  • Ford and Mobileye are also exploring autonomous vehicles here, according to BridgeDetroit.

How it works: Riders will be able to book shuttles for daily transit needs on-demand or in advance through a mobile app, website or by phone.

  • Rides will be available in two different zones — one north of downtown and the other covering southeast neighborhoods, per Bridge.
  • Human operators will chaperone rides during the project to familiarize users with the technology and to assist riders getting on or off the shuttle.

What they’re saying: Tim Slusser, the city’s chief of mobility innovation, says the project will help solve transportation obstacles and build public trust in self-driving technology.

  • “We want Detroiters to feel safe and well-informed riding on and sharing the road with autonomous vehicles,” he said in a statement.

What’s next: Community outreach to finalize service routes begins this fall.

Standardizing The Autonomous Vehicle Future

By Selika Josiah Talbott, Forbes

It’s time to create AV benchmarking and enable widespread deployment and use of autonomous vehicles.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roadway crash deaths are increasing. Last year almost 43,000 people died in traffic related crashes in the United States, the most since 2005.

This seems astonishing given the increased usage of seatbelts, education on drunk driving and advancement of safety features in vehicles. But the leading causes of crash deaths are distracted driving, speeding or reckless driving and cell phone usage. The real issue in each of these instances is human behavior.

While some believe that autonomous vehicles have been an invention in search of a problem, those of us who deeply understand the technology and its benefits are clear-sighted and aware of a myriad of problems that autonomous vehicles can solve.

They can:

• Reduce the rise in crashes and fatalities

• Complement the diminishing workforce to move goods

• Address safety concerns in industries

• Improve stunted mobility where transportation is neither efficient nor accessible.

The industry has differing views as to the role of autonomous vehicles. Some look at autonomous vehicles as a toy – another status symbol for the very wealthy. Others focus on autonomous vehicles in the movement of freight and as an assist to fleets and yet others concentrate on the ability to address the need to provide efficient and affordable transportation.

No matter the use case, where is the synergy on non-differential hardware and software which would aid the widespread deployment and use of autonomous vehicles?

The autonomous vehicle industry would do well to take some lessons from the aviation industry. Airlines understand that where one fails in its safety technology or innovation everyone suffers. Deregulation rid the industry of administrative and judicial burdens, decreased costs and allowed more people to travel via plane. According to the international Air Transport Association, “Industry standards simplify common processes and reduce cost and complexity. They allow airlines to work seamlessly with each other and with other stakeholders such as travel agents, airports and governments. Standards encourage innovation and provide a better experience for passengers. Standards are developed and adopted under the IATA Conference structure, where all members are able to participate and vote…”

Airlines have long policed their activity by forming coalitions and determining standards of operations and benchmarking what is a necessity in order to ensure public trust and the safety of human life.

But what about autonomous innovation? We don’t have a federal regulatory standard on the autonomous movement of goods or people across the country. We have yet to agree upon a set of standards that ensures that one self-driving car meets the same rigorous analysis as the next. Without that, how is the public or legislators and lawmakers to opine and create a legal framework that will allow us to move into this future of mobility?

We don’t need know the secret sauce of each company’s vehicles. They can keep to themselves the things that make their technology unique in the autonomous vehicle space. But we certainly should be able to agree on standards that we will all live by in order to operate on the roadways, skyways and in all modes of autonomous transportation safely.

A standard would go a long way to reducing and preventing millions in traffic crashes anticipated between now and 2035. Self-driving cars have the potential to provide an 81% reduction in vehicle crashes in the United States.

Each year we delay having an agreed-upon standard means that more people will unnecessarily die on our roadways and that we will have fewer opportunities and options to eliminate traffic vehicle crashes. It’s time to step up as an industry, create benchmarking standards and enable widespread deployment and use of autonomous vehicles.

A Marathon, Not A Sprint: T&BB Interviews Nick Elder Of Torc Robotics

By Bradley Osborne, Truck & Bus Builder

When one talks about autonomous vehicles, it is all too easy to slip into science-fiction reveries of driverless vehicles everywhere, transporting people and goods without requiring any human input. However, that is a vision of the future which is not shared by Nick Elder of American tech firm Torc Robotics. Routes that take goods vehicles through busy urban environments, or to multiple pickup and drop-off locations, handling cargo that requires more active monitoring, create variables that become incredibly difficult for artificial intelligence to handle safely and effectively. As far as these last mile applications are concerned, Elder believes that human drivers will remain essential for many years to come: “arguably, I would say, indefinitely”.

Long haul is a different matter. A set route between A and B, along with extensive stretches of straight roads and fairly predictable traffic mean that long distance applications employing Class 8 trucks could be automated with relative ease. It is for this reason that Daimler Truck North America acquired a majority stake in Torc in 2019 and set the company to work on developing trucks with Level 4 autonomy.

Even so, automating Class 8 trucks is easier said than done, and self-driving vehicles will not be desirable for every long haul operation. Torc’s engineers do not pretend to know the exact wants and needs of operators: as such, in 2022 it established an advisory council, made up logistics firms providing a broad swathe of different services who regularly meet to provide feedback to Torc. Through this forum of potential end customers, Torc intends to learn how and where its technology could be put to commercial use in the heavy truck segment.

The company’s view is that autonomous vehicle development is a marathon, not a sprint. It explains Torc’s slow and steady approach, which Elder characterises as “practical” and “realistic”; an approach which takes its direction from the truck industry rather than blue sky thinking. Torc’s outlook for self-driving vehicles is based on deep expertise. Though the commercial vehicle industry first began to take notice of Torc only after the Daimler Truck acquisition, in fact the company’s experience with working on autonomous vehicle technology goes back to the mid-2000s. In that time, Elder said, the target dates for launching self-driving vehicles on the road for commercial use have been repeatedly pushed back, and some of the earliest contenders have had to drop out of the race. Elder therefore recognises “just how challenging” it will be to not only create a reliable autonomous truck, but to also scale up production and maintain self-driving fleets on the road.

I was surprised when Elder described the work culture of Torc as “blue collar”. On reflection, however, I see why that label might fit. The picture put across to me is of a company with a “can do” attitude, tempered by hardheaded common sense and a respect for limits. Torc has always been based in Blacksburg, a largeish town in mountainous southwest Virginia which is dominated by Virginia Tech (“Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University”), and Elder believes that this location has conferred some unique advantages. Being far away from Silicon Valley has, in Elder’s opinion, helped to keep Torc “humble”, fostering a work culture of “rolling up your sleeves, doing for the good of the team rather than looking for individual recognition”. Moreover, Blacksburg is much more the sort of place where somebody would want to settle down and raise a family than, say, San Francisco. Nevertheless, Torc recognised that the slower pace of Virginian life would not appeal to everybody, and hence it opened offices in Austin, Texas last year in a recruitment drive for more software developers.

From Virginia Tech to Daimler Truck

Torc traces its history back to the series of government funded competitions that are known collectively as the “DARPA Grand Challenge” – so called because its main sponsor is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. Elder told T&BB that excessive casualties suffered by the military due to roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) originally motivated DARPA’s decision to set up the first Grand Challenge in 2004. It was thought that encouraging the development of autonomous vehicle technology could lead to a usable fleet of unmanned military vehicles, meaning that humans could be taken entirely out of certain logistics operations that carry significant risks to life. However, with the third competition, the so-called “Urban Challenge”, DARPA switched the focus to vehicles that could obey traffic laws and avoid other road users. In this competition, held in 2007, a team called “VictorTango”, with a Ford SUV retrofitted with self-driving technology, came in third place out of 53.

It was a team made up of current students at Virginia Tech and graduates who had founded the “Torc Robotics” company in 2005. With the newfound recognition gained from success at the DARPA Urban Challenge, Torc went on to work with various branches of the defence department to explore the uses of vehicle autonomy. Torc also partnered with Caterpillar Inc, who wanted to take human drivers out of potentially dangerous situations in the construction and mining sectors. These projects occupied Torc for over a decade, until about 2017, when technological developments enabled the company to grasp new opportunities. Advancements in sensor technology, computer performance, and artificial intelligence encouraged Torc to look beyond the niche applications it had concerned itself with up until that date. Talks were begun with Daimler Truck, leading to the acquisition of a majority stake in Torc in 2019.

Today, Torc enjoys the backing of a multinational corporation which owns several truck brands in Europe, North America, and Asia. But Elder insisted that Torc fared well enough before the acquisition, making its living and slowly growing through its project involvements with the U.S. government and Caterpillar. Until 2019, Torc “had never taken any outside capital”, Elder said. And while he admits that the financial security is a huge boon to the company, Elder would not say that this was the main advantage of the relationship with Daimler Truck. Rather, he pointed to the German manufacturer’s extensive knowledge of and involvement in the truck segment as the primary reason for the relationship. In order to get to the “deep level of integration” with the chassis and the self-driving tech that Torc was aiming for, it was inevitable that the company would need a “strong partner” from the truck industry. Only by working closely with the OEM – in particular, with Daimler Truck’s ‘Freightliner’ brand – does Torc feel it can achieve a “viable, serviceable, scalable long term product”.

One might think that an AI-driver could be made to work in any type of vehicle. However, in Torc’s experience, developing a self-driving truck presents different challenges to those of an unmanned defence or mining vehicle. The principles are the same: the vehicle must be able to perceive its environment, identify obstacles and other road users, and take appropriate action to navigate safely. But the hardware and software requirements can change significantly, depending on the vehicle type, the application, and the environment. The viewing range and stopping distance required for a Class 8 truck travelling at highway speeds are different from those required for an urban robotaxi, for example. As such, the knowledge gained from working with Daimler Truck, together with the feedback from the advisory council have helped to flatten the learning curve for Torc.

The future of Torc and autonomous driving

When asked about the challenges which companies face in bringing a viable self-driving truck to market, Elder pointed to existing gaps in hardware technology and availability. In particular, off-the-shelf radar and lidar products that can meet the needs of autonomous vehicles are not yet available. Elder said that there are “ultra long range” lidar products that are currently in development, but it will be some time before these are available at scale. Not to mention, more time will be needed to integrate this hardware with Torc’s software.

An area of strength for Torc is vision-based perception, using cameras mounted all around the truck. This was bolstered by the recent acquisition of Algolux, a tech firm based in Montreal. Another area of expertise which Algolux is contributing is machine learning, helping Torc’s software to quickly identify and handle risky driving scenarios in real time. The cameras, however, will need to work in concert with radar and lidar to give the self-driving truck enough accurate information to make safe and intelligent choices. Putting together all the autonomous driving components into a single production package will be a collaborative effort between Torc and Daimler Truck.

When Torc started out in the mid-2000s, the motivation behind the development of autonomous vehicles was to save lives. In the truck sector, making safer vehicles is a worthy cause, and as such it is a priority of governments across the developed world. An unmanned truck which is not liable to human error – that is to say, the foibles of an inattentive or incautious driver – could dramatically reduce the risk of accident and therefore help to make the road safer for others. But Elder admits that the conversation has shifted in recent years. Promoters of self-driving trucks talk less about safety and more about total cost of ownership. Elder thinks this is “fair”: there are widespread shortages of human drivers, and in any case, a self-driving truck has the potential to overcome some of the obvious physical limitations which humans cannot. A self-driving truck does not need to sleep or take a toilet break. Theoretically, an operator could put one to use all hours, needing only to stop for maintenance or refuelling. The economic benefits of maximising the use of an expensive asset like this are apparent.

That is not to say that considerations of safety have fallen by the wayside. On the contrary, Elder insisted that Torc is committed to testing every component of its self-driving technology with “rigour” until it is assured that it has a product that it can release “out into the world” with confidence. The early days of the DARPA Grand Challenge and the hype over autonomous vehicles are in the past for Torc. Now the dust has settled somewhat following the first excitement, Elder feels that the autonomous vehicle sector is entering its maturation phase – during which, tech firms such as Torc will for the first time be able to offer commercially viable tools that are more than just demonstration vehicles. The word “tool” is key: the self-driving truck will be another instrument that will complement, not replace, the tools which are already at the operator’s disposal. Torc’s goal is not to “revolutionise” or “disrupt” long distance trucking, but to make a tool which is as reliable and as useful as possible to the industry. And so, we return to self-image of Torc as a tech firm with a blue collar ethic of diligence and common sense, so far removed from the visionary ideas of Silicon Valley. In the end, the slow and steady approach might put Torc in first place.

Vehicles of The Future: Peter Vaughan Schmidt Of Torc Robotics On The Leading Edge Technologies That Are Making Cars & Trucks Smarter, Safer, and More Sustainable

An Interview with David Leichner, Medium

The automotive industry has been disrupted recently with new exciting technologies that have made cars and trucks much smarter, much safer, and much more sustainable and more environmentally friendly.

What other exciting disruptive technologies will we see in the next few years? How much longer will fossil fuel-powered cars be produced? When will we see fully autonomous vehicles? Can we overcome the challenge of getting stuck in traffic? As cars become “moving computers”, do we have to worry about people hacking our cars? How else will our driving experience be different over the next five years? To address these questions, Authority Magazine started a new interview series about “Exciting Leading Edge Technologies That Are Making Cars & Trucks Smarter, Safer, and More Sustainable.” In this series, we are talking to leaders of automotive companies, automotive tech companies, EV companies, and other tech leaders who can talk about the vehicles of the future. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Vaughan Schmidt.

Prior to joining Torc Robotics in 2022, Dr. Peter Vaughan Schmidt was the head of the Autonomous Technology Group for Daimler Truck for three years. Before leading that organization, he managed the strategy organization for Daimler Truck, where his focus areas included the Chinese market, autonomous technology, electrification, connectivity and digital transformation.

Dr. Schmidt also previously led Daimler’s global product and platform management for medium and heavy truck engines worldwide, as well as holding roles in engine production and plant management.

Before joining Daimler, Dr. Schmidt was a principal and consultant at McKinsey & Company serving the automotive industry.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in the automotive industry?

I graduated with my Doctorate degree in Physics with no plan to join the automotive industry. Initially, I saw a career in academia first and industry research centers next, but eventually fell into a role as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, had a ton of fun and a steep learning curve, and moved up the ladder to an Associate Principal of Automotive and Manufacturing. This was the catalyst for me to join Daimler AG in 2005, starting as a project manager, where I developed into my ultimate role as the Head of Autonomous Technology for Daimler Trucks for three years.

When Torc Robotics became an independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck AG in 2019, I worked very closely with the founding CEO to help drive the initiatives of our joint approach to develop and commercialize autonomous technology. In 2022, I became the CEO of Torc Robotics to help build on Torc’s long tradition of autonomous innovation and improving the safety of freight delivery.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This is a difficult choice between my first ride in an autonomous truck at Torc’s Blacksburg office in September 2019 and the amazing amount of progress that had been made between that experience and my first Albuquerque, New Mexico Torc demo ride in 2022. In the fall of 2019, Torc and Daimler had just officially joined forces in our ground-breaking partnership. It was so cool to experience a class 8-truck driving autonomously.

While you could tell there was room to improve, I thought it was already a pretty good system and saw it had such massive potential to change the future of trucking. But then, being able to see the evolution from my first demo ride, to how much better the truck performed after Torc’s tremendous growth and laser focus on this specific use case in the intervening years was just incredible. I still get excited every time I visit our fleet testing operation in the Southwest U.S., especially when I get to ride along with our crews in the trucks. The energy and enthusiasm of Torc’rs for developing the future of trucking is contagious!

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Our biggest project right now is bringing our autonomous trucking technology onto the roads. By conducting long-haul drive tests using Daimler trucks carrying concrete blocks and customer pilots with Schneider and CR England to move real cargo, we are able to work towards a safe, sustained, long-haul innovation in the freight industry, which is our top priority to ensure the technology is inherently safe before we place it on the market.

The Torc technology uses “experiences” to help it better adjust to how it drives. It’s one thing for a truck to learn how to drive in a desert with limited cars around, but it’s another for the technology to know how to adjust to aggressive drivers and human error. Through the sensors, the technology learns how to address these situations and better react to them in the future. However, testing can take up to a year to perfect as each test must run efficiently and effectively before it hits the market. If the technology does not pass one test, we rerun it until it’s correct, which, depending on the issue, can take a year or more. To help with this testing, we have a testing facility in Albuquerque, NM, Software Engineering and Development Center in Austin, TX and a Technology and Software Development Center in Stuttgart, Germany.

How do you think this might change the world?

Torc’s focus is helping the freight industry thrive by providing the safest, most reliable and most cost-effective trucking solution on the market. In doing so, Torc has the ability to help to improve the quality of life for all. Medicines and supplies for hospitals, food to keep grocery stores stocked, fuel for your local gas station and keeping the global economy going — these are just some of the societal benefits of freight. Autonomous trucking has the added benefits of being more environmentally friendly, providing cost-efficiencies for our customers and making the roads safer for all road users.

Autonomous trucking can also create more jobs in the industry. It is a common misconception that autonomous driving removes jobs, but it’s quite the opposite. Autonomous trucking is created to help relieve drivers from long-haul drives that keep them away from home for week-long stretches and address the growing truck driver shortage. Autonomous trucking has the ability to create new and different jobs in the industry — across development, testing, training and operations — and allow drivers to take on shorter, less intense routes. These new jobs will require people with a range of skills, training and education and provide opportunities to even more people and offer a better quality of life.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I’m a “glass half-full” person, so while there are potential risks and challenges with any technology, I prefer to focus on the mitigations we can implement to manage them. Autonomous trucking has so much positive potential — from the speed of delivery to creating more cost-effectiveness, to better use of assets and making the highways a safer place. All of this is only possible with careful management of the technology and living by our core value of doing the right thing. It’s important to note that while Torc is in the development stage of our autonomous technology, the technology is never tested without a safety driver overseeing the operation of the truck. Our safety drivers have extensive training and experience and provide important feedback in the development of the technology.

Through our Torc Autonomous Advisory Council (TAAC), we are partnering with many of the leading companies in the freight industry to make sure we have the brightest and most experienced minds helping to inform our product design and account for those challenges.

What are a few things that most excite you about the automotive industry as it is today? Why?

It’s exciting that the entire industry is transforming — from internal combustion to electric or alternative fuels; from very manual systems to very connected, “smart” systems throughout the vehicle and user interfaces; and from 100% human-operated to human-operated supported by driver assistance systems and on the way to autonomous operations (i.e., SAE Level 4, high driving automation). The automotive industry has undergone more transformation in the last decade than in the previous three combined — technologies such as advanced driver assistance systems have become more widely available and are often looked at as a new standard in transportation transformation.

I also love being part of helping to advance the future of the automotive industry and drive positive change that creates benefits beyond the technology — in Torc’s case, fleet and logistics — and thereby making an even bigger positive impact on our communities.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. Torc is developing autonomous solutions to meet the challenges of an industry with an ever-increasing demand for goods. Torc believes its technology can immensely impact freight transportation. Additionally, it can offer a new set of possibilities for fleet managers and freight professionals across the country by increasing fleet utilization, shipping loads faster and improving driver satisfaction by allowing truckers the opportunity to work more local routes, closer to home.

What are a few things that most concern you about the automotive industry as it is today? What must be done to address these challenges?

Safety must remain a paramount topic for all in the automotive industry, especially for those of us who are creating new technologies. For autonomous trucking, safety requires going beyond just building a safe product. Collaboration with partners and stakeholders from across the ecosystem to inform the full lifecycle and customer journey is required to achieve a safe solution.

As an industry, we have come a long way over the last several decades in applying data and analytics to improve and assess the safety performance of automotive vehicles and automotive systems. Torc’s data pipeline and analytics are critical for measuring our performance to support the development and obtain the evidence to prove our capability. We use a range of predictive indicators to measure our performance and will continue to employ these techniques after deployment for safe operation and continuous improvement.

Most of the industry has implemented a Safety Management System which provides a systematic approach to how safety information is valued, shared and handled within a company. The industry needs to come together and consider ways to share best practices and learning from these programs.

As we work together as an industry towards the goal of making our roads safer, it’s crucial we don’t put the carriage before the horse. While public road testing is a necessary step in the development of autonomous technology, testing must be conducted with care, using best practices and with the recognition that it is a public road shared by all road users.

Based on your vantage point as an insider in the automotive industry, what other exciting disruptive technologies will we see in the next few years? Can you share some of the new developments that will make vehicles smarter, safer, and more sustainable?

Through our partnership with Daimler Truck, we work hand in hand in developing real-world applications to test in Daimler fleets. Some of the technology I’m most excited about is how we are leveraging our Freightliner Cascadia development trucks and prototypes. Torc develops the Automated Driving System (ADS), which includes perception and behavior algorithms, high-definition maps and the use of a proprietary localization system. Torc’s autonomous trucks are positioned and localized by our Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and real-time positioning technology developed by Torc to position the vehicle on high-definition map features. Additionally, Torc’s integrated mapping allows the vehicle to understand where it is in the world, from driving lanes to drivable surfaces.

As for the hardware used, the autonomous trucks include a sensor suite to “see” the environment. Our current system uses integrated cameras, long and short-range Lidar and long and short-range radar to allow for the system to detect its surroundings in real-time. This sensor suite utilizes the strengths of each component, provides a 3D picture of the environment, detects objects and calculates the movement of vehicles around the truck for prediction and decision-making.

In your opinion, how much longer will fossil fuel-powered cars be produced? When do you think EVs will be the majority of vehicles in use? Can you explain?

Our Daimler Truck colleagues have a great phrase for their approach to this transition: “moving at the speed of right.” Only by listening to our customers and delivering the products that they need can we help shape the future of sustainable transportation, especially in a diverse and dynamic industry like freight.

I wouldn’t want to speculate yet on when we’ll reach that tipping point to a majority of EVs or, even more exciting, autonomous EVs, but I am really looking forward to working with our partners to create a safer, more efficient freight ecosystem.

When do you think we will see fully autonomous vehicles deployed in a mainstream way? What do you think are the main barriers to reaching that stage?

We at Torc like to think the autonomous trucking landscape is a marathon, not a sprint, but do see autonomous trucks becoming mainstream by the end of the decade. Where we are today is much different than where we were in 2007 and that is largely due to the years of development that have taken place, but most importantly the system will not be released until it is inherently safe and reliable. Safety, functionality and dependability are at the forefront of all development within Torc’s autonomous fleets.

The main barrier we are seeing to reach this stage is acceptance from the public. Moving freight is a complex ecosystem and we are laser-focused on one piece of this system. We need the right people to relate with the product, see the problems that we need to solve and understand the positive impact it will have on safety, society and the industry.

How else will our driving experience be different over the next five years?

Our hope is that over the next five years, the roads will be an increasingly safer place for all road users with autonomous trucks and other vehicles equipped with automated driving systems as part of the solution and becoming more commonplace. Our goal is to design our product for ease of adoption and integration with the current on-the-road fleet operations by adding capacity in the areas with the most needs, adding a force multiplier for scaling, improving fuel economy and greater operability predictability. Although Torc is working to deploy automated driving systems, our goal is not to remove jobs from the trucking workforce. We have the ability to create new jobs over the next five years and provide drivers with the power to choose routes that are closer to their families.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Automotive Industry?”

  • Flexibility — When I was a student, autonomy didn’t really exist, but now look where we are! I certainly didn’t imagine when I was first entering the industry that I would become CEO of a company seeking to be the first to a scalable, profitable autonomous truck product!
  • Curiosity — Being open to different ideas and points of view is critical to growth. Always be willing to learn — whether about new technology, from employee perspectives, or about related industries. The rapid rate of technology development means that every industry is changing faster than in the past — the more you learn, the better equipped you will be to adapt and move forward.
  • Global perspective — The automotive industry is truly a global marketplace. Whether you are helping evaluate and source production components, developing code, or interacting with customers, you will almost certainly be working with distributed teams and across cultures.
  • People Skills — Technical expertise is obvious for this industry, but the most effective leaders I know across all industries, not just automotive, also understand how to influence, motivate and/or develop the great talent that surrounds them at every stage of their career.
  • A Strong Drive for Results — Take personal ownership in delivering on commitments to your team, your professional partners and your customers. The best leaders know the end goal and focus the passion and persistence of those around them on solutions to reach that goal.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Autonomous trucking! I’m really fortunate to already be in this industry and I really believe that the product we are building will drive the future of freight. Our autonomous trucking solution will allow the fleets to provide better services to consumers, such as faster delivery times or less expensive delivery options — first in the U.S. and then around the globe.

Hobbs Announces $1.7M in Funding for STEM Programs at Pima Community College

By Sarah Lapidus, azcentral.

Gov. Katie Hobbs announced $1.7 million in state funding was invested in Pima Community College’s workforce development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

Part of that funding helped build the Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, a new facility that trains future automotive technicians located at the college’s downtown campus in Tucson. This year’s state budget also appropriated $2 million for the college’s operations.

Before Hobbs’ tour of the automotive facility, she spoke about Arizona’s place as the “epicenter” of emerging technologies like semiconductors, electric vehicles and aerospace, among others, and the role community colleges play in training a workforce for these jobs.

“To keep the pace, the state will need to have opportunities for postsecondary education and training that prepares Arizonans for these jobs,” Hobbs said, standing in the automotive training center, amid rows of trucks and cars, with hoods open revealing their engines.

She said this was the first time the college received state funding since 2015.

The Automotive Technology and Innovation Center is a two-story, 50,000-square-foot building that opened in 2021. It houses automotive technology programs in diesel, electric and autonomous vehicles and training for brands like Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and Subaru.

The $35 million Advanced Manufacturing facility is 100,000 square feet and houses programs in mining technology, manufacturing, metalworking, robotics, machine technology and more.

Hobbs said these training programs help meet industry demands and will help attract more companies to Arizona.

“If we have the workforce, we will continue to attract the companies,” she said.

Hobbs reiterated the importance of community colleges to Arizona’s education system and economy, noting how funding for Pima College ensures that state funding helps all corners of Arizona, not only in the capital.

“Investing those dollars here to invest in the workforce will help bring those opportunities here to Pima County and Tucson,” Hobbs said.

Programs like these at Pima Community College and other community colleges allow more people to access education and find better paying jobs, helping grow the state’s economy, she said.

“We’re committed to continuing to invest in our community colleges, which are a critical piece of Arizonans being able to access better jobs, better pay, better quality of life,” she said.