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Autonomy in transportation focus of Toledo Regional Chamber meeting

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A Navya Autonom Cab, a self-driving vehicle, drives down a street during a demonstration at CES International in Las Vegas.

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A researcher who studies advanced mobility, autonomous vehicles, and the impact those technologies are likely to have on local communities will be the keynote speaker at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting Wednesday.

Valerie Sathe Brugeman, a senior project manager at the Center for Automotive Research, says it’s important for municipal and business leaders to gain a better understanding of where the automotive industry is headed and just how revolutionary the changes are going to be.

“It’s just a different mindset that we need to think about,” she said. “Even automotive companies are thinking about where they fit in the overall mobility business.

“Where automotive companies once focused almost exclusively on building cars, they’re now being forced to think about how they provide services and remain relevant as the industry shifts. Communities need to think about similar issues,” Ms. Sathe Brugeman said. 

How might parking lot requirements change if more people are using shared transportation? What changes might be necessary for road markings? Can businesses harness ride-sharing services to get employees to work? What new jobs might spring up, and how can communities whose economies have historically been tied to the auto industry best take advantage?

“We’ve looked at what communities can do to prepare for those new technologies, or what they should be thinking about,” she said.

Some of her presentation is simply explaining to people what all of these new terms mean. What, for instance, are the differences between ride hailing, car sharing, and mobility as a service?

“It’s really important to get people on the same page to understand what on Earth we’re talking about,” she said.

Even though some companies — including General Motors — are talking about putting a limited number of autonomous vehicles on public roadways as early as next year, most experts believe we’re still a decade-plus away from these technologies becoming commonplace.

But because of the significant changes that are expected to come, chamber leaders wanted to start the conversation now.  

“Driverless cars are predicted to have a significant impact on vehicle sales, which will have a trickle-down effect on car manufacturers, parts suppliers, repair shops, gas stations, car rental services. The list goes on. While it is not going to happen tomorrow, it is something to be thinking about today,” said Stacey Mallett, a spokesman for the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The annual meeting will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Premier Banquet Hall in Toledo. The event is only open to chamber members.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com419-724-6134, or on Twitter @TyrelLinkhorn.

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