If you’ve driven a new car lately then you have likely noticed that they are becoming smarter and safer. Voice activated operating systems that connect to your smart phone, cameras and sensors that can prevent you from bumping into obstacles and assist with lane changes, and some cars can even park and drive themselves under the right conditions.  These advancements in vehicle automation are more than just added conveniences they are saving lives.

In 2018, more than 36,000 people in the United States and 1.3 million worldwide lost their lives in automotive accidents.[1] To put this in perspective, more people in the U.S. lost their lives that year from automobile accidents than the entire world did to natural disasters (10,300).[2] The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that highly automated vehicles have the potential to reduce traffic fatalities by up to 94 percent by eliminating those accidents that are due to human error.[3]

Indiana can and should serve as a hub for the development and deployment of these life saving technologies. Automotive companies contribute more than $15 billion to our state’s gross domestic product each year (second highest in the nation) and employ more than 100,000 Hoosiers.  With the automotive industry investing $92 billion in automation last year alone, Indiana can’t afford to surrender our leadership position to states like California, Arizona, Florida, Texas and others who are aggressively pursuing policies and programs that support autonomous vehicle development. We must build on the legacy that companies like Delphi, now Aptiv, in Kokomo pioneered in vehicle safety and automation and establish an economic and policy environment that will grow and attract innovative companies from around the world. 

 Over the last two years Energy Systems Network (ESN) has worked with industry, academia, and government leaders to lay the foundation for an ecosystem that will accelerate the growth of our nascent automation industry.  We are already seeing the results of this collaborative effort.  Last November, ESN rolled out two milestone programs in automation innovation.  First, Silicon Valley start-up PerceptIn announced they will be moving their headquarters to Fishers and operating a pilot of their self-driving shuttles to transport people within the city. Second, ESN partnered with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to launch the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a $1 million prize competition among universities that will culminate in a head-to-head high-speed autonomous vehicle race at the famed speedway on October 23, 2021.  These are just the first two in what we expect will be a broad portfolio of autonomous vehicle industry initiatives that our network will stand up over the coming years as we work to build an ecosystem that will create jobs, attract investment, and save lives.