Arkansas governor prepares for future strides in mobility technology

At a time when the transportation industry is experiencing major successes, Gov. Asa Hutchinson hopes to position Arkansas to become a leader in futuristic technology. He instructs the new council to explore how best to position the state for economic opportunities through things like electric cars, cars and drones.

With an order signed Tuesday, Hutchinson created the Arkansas Council for Future Mobility. Members have a variety of experiences including transportation, business, economic development and engineering.

“We are talking about the future, about innovation, and we know that this will lead to some very sustainable changes in our transport,” Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News on Wednesday. “It will also look further at the road and opportunities to change our lives and further improve the quality of our lives.”

He noted that electric car maker Canoo recently opened its headquarters in the state and expanded power stations.

“What we are talking about in the future of mobile mobility is now very concrete and effective,” Hutchinson said.

In a state address to members of the Arkansas General Assembly last week, the governor called on the state to “lead the world in innovation by focusing on the future of advanced mobility.” On Tuesday, he announced the creation of the council during a press conference at the Governor’s Mansion and asked to report by the end of November.

Michael Hibble

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KUAR News

Cyrus Cigar, chairman of the Arkansas Future Mobility Council, speaks during Tuesday’s announcement.

Board members should identify legal barriers that limit advances in mobility technology, find federal funding, evaluate workforce training, and make recommendations on how to integrate staff with more technology.

Board Chairman Cyrus Cigar is known for his work as a co-founder of UP.Partners, an company that invests in mobility technology. During a press conference, Cigars spoke about the unique position of Arkansas thanks to companies located in the state.

“It can be argued,” said Cigar, “that Arkansas controls the movement of more physical things than any other region in the world.”

He added that Walmart of Bentonville is responsible for moving hundreds of billions of individual goods each year.

After the press conference, Hutchinson reviewed several types of mobile technology, then spoke to reporters about the safety of self-driving cars.

“You think about the number of deaths that are caused today due to careless operation of vehicles, well, that’s the side of human error that causes death,” Hutchinson said. “Autonomous vehicles actually eliminate some of these human errors.”

In an interview Wednesday, the governor spoke about the safety of such technologies and how to reassure the hesitant public.

“Confidence comes from experience,” Hutchinson said. “This is one of the reasons we demonstrated the equipment yesterday so people can imagine it more. Then this Council on Future Mobility, one of the things they will be able to do is show the public that we are in control, that we are doing it safely when we look at changes in transport. But it will take a lot of work, a lot of time and experience. “

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Michael Hibble

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KUAR News

Brenda Mechia, operations manager at Gatik, shows Governor Asa Hutchinson one of the company’s self-driving trucks.

Cigars added in an interview with KUAR News that changes are already underway in the state.

In November, Canoo set up its headquarters in Bentonville and has a facility under construction that officials say will provide 545 high-paying jobs. At Pee Ridge Walmart is partnering with Zipline drone delivery company to deliver health and wellness items to customers ’homes using its technology. The company says it even tested drone capabilities in remote corners of Africa, where it delivered blood and tests for COVID-19.

“We now have unmanned aerial vehicle delivery companies, DroneUP and Zipline, which supply unmanned aerial vehicles to Walmart,” said Cigar.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said expanded mobility could change the state’s job market. He compared new advances in transport with similar advances in automation. In the past, factories used human staff to create products, but now many companies rely on machines.

“We need someone to control this drone, to encode and program this autonomous vehicle,” Preston said, adding that these new technologies are only scratching the surface.

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