More than 75 years ago, the first highway, the Pennsylvania turnpike, opened. Fifteen years later, construction of 40,000 miles of interstate highway system was underway. Here in Nevada, over the last five decades, residential subdivisions were with roadways built connecting destinations east and west, north and south. What does all this public infrastructure have in common? It was all designed around the automobile. And, in those 75 years, there has been very little change in how the private vehicle and the public infrastructure interact.
But with emerging technology, traditional automobile transportation systems are rapidly evolving. We are seeing the deployment of autonomous vehicles (a.k.a. self-driving cars), connected vehicles (i.e., cars that use paint markings and sensors to assist drivers), shared mobility (i.e. Lyft, Uber) and intelligent infrastructure (i.e., traffic lights that communicate with cars). All of these advancements in mobility require unprecedented collaboration between organizations that historically have not needed to interact. Automakers, technology companies, policy makers and public infrastructure providers must now work together for these new systems to deliver on their promises of increased safety, capacity and efficiencies.
Luckily for Nevada, we are already collaborating as a state, leading in industry discussions and forging meaningful partnerships. Governor Sandoval and his Office of Economic Development, state agencies, local governments, and the business community are focused on enticing companies to choose Nevada as their startup location for developing and testing transportation technologies that will improve our experience in getting from Point A to Point B.
Through these collaborative partnerships, Nevada offers competitive advantages that have already proven successful in defining our state as a desirable market for technology development. Here are a few of those advantages:
Regulations: Nevada was the first state to implement common sense regulations to testing, licensing and regulating autonomous vehicles. In fact, in October, Nevada issued the nation’s first autonomous vehicle restricted driver’s license to Nevada resident and former racecar driver Sam Schmidt, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since a racing accident in 2000. And Google has been testing autonomous vehicles here since 2011 because it was too difficult to get authorization in California.
Location: Nevada has significantly varying climate and terrain ideal for testing new vehicle technology. Automakers test their systems in the urban core area of Las Vegas in the summer, and in remote high elevation areas of Northern Nevada in the winter. Nevada is easily accessible to the high tech hubs of both northern and southern California.
Access to Data: For many years, Nevada has led the nation in traffic management and data collection. Las Vegas has one of the first truly integrated Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) operations in the country, making it easier for technology companies to access data and demonstrate products that require connection to traffic signals and monitors.
One Call, That’s All: The Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility (NCAM) provides a one-stop shop for technology companies looking to demonstrate their technology in Nevada. It brings together industry, government and academia to develop and deploy policies and programs to support advanced mobility technology.
Air to Ground: Nevada is the only state to be designated as an Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) Test Site by the Federal Aviation Administration; the other five sites are universities or cities. As a result, tech companies are recognizing synergies that can be gained by aligning the testing of aerial and ground systems.
It is an exciting time in the world of transportation. After 75 years of relatively little change in the relationship between cars and infrastructure, it is clear we are entering an era of disruption and opportunity. Nevada is capitalizing on this opportunity by working together collaboratively and proactively, giving us a significant advantage over other regions to attract and deploy advanced mobility solutions that will make our community more efficient, safe and economically diverse.
Tina Quigley is general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.