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Self-driving cars driving the community forward

Ben Goldstein on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 12:00:00 am 


Few emerging technologies have the potential to be truly revolutionary. But if you ask the people of Howell, Michigan, the future looks promising for autonomous vehicle technology.

A recent event hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce provided expert speakers from Ford Motor Co. and the American Center for Mobility with an opportunity to discuss the future of self-driving vehicles and how the Howell community can best prepare for its impending arrival.

 “There are so many businesses here that support the auto industry, from interior and exterior components to engine parts,” says Jessica Wicks, communications manager at the chamber of commerce.

Because of its proximity – about an hour’s drive – to Ford headquarters in Detroit and its share of automotive support industry manufacturers, Howell stands to gain from the mainstream adoption of autonomous vehicles.

Wicks, a self-admitted car-lover, says that Michigan’s deep love for cars and trucks aside, “The idea of not driving a car had always kind of freaked us out.”

The speakers from Ford and American Center for Mobility wanted to address apprehension about the new technology and assure event attendees – mostly business executives and elected leaders – that self-driving cars and trucks could yield huge benefits for businesses, people and the community at large.

An analogy shared by a panelist at the event, and passed along by Wicks, explains how the emerging technology could benefit all of us. “Your kids go to school, let’s say they leave the house at 7:15 a.m. A self-driving car takes the kids to school and comes back to the house to take you to work.” Wicks says, “That same car could drop you off at the front door at work, then go park or refuel. The car is working the whole time you’re working, which makes life easier.”

As for the business case for self-driving vehicles, the concept is simple. The new technology has the potential to provide huge efficiency gains to trade and global supply chains. Michigan companies, already experienced in the various parts of vehicle manufacturing, have the expertise and know-how to advance the technology.

And the chamber’s motive for hosting the event is crystal clear, too. “We need new talent. We need engineers. And we need forward thinkers who are comfortable with this concept,” said Wicks. “We know it’s coming, so it’s time to get comfortable with it and determine how to best seize the opportunities that new technology presents.”

Tags: Automation, Autonomous Vehicles, Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, Technology

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