Each year, in February, I attend the highly anticipated State of the Valley Conference in San Jose. The conference is hosted by joint Ventures Silicon Valley where thousands of attendees devour the latest of tech data measuring every conceivable indices of the present state and anticipated future of the tech economy. In 2016 cloud computing dominated the conversation. This year the topic was full-on autonomous vehicle technology.
But, before I dive too deeply into the conference, it is worthwhile lamenting once more about the turgid state of the Tampa Bay transit system. Indeed in a recent Tampa Bay Times analysis Tampa ranked 29 out of the top 30 metros for worst transit system.
Yes, the Valley’s system is old, rickety and mocked, but compared to Tampa, they are a transit nirvana. The Caltrain – a diesel commuter rail system which runs from San Jose to San Francisco is always full, its riders a mix of young coders from Cal Tech and china, all plugging away as the rail churns from one storied tech hub to the next – Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park …. as well the light rail line, itself an appendage of a seemingly endless constellation of tech companies, some household names and others fresh startups, all tucked neatly along the route and ever present at most stops.
No, the rail systems can not be credited for creating or even attracting the tech stars, but its service helps network the companies to their employees and certainly does not hurt. Indeed, that is the takeaway. Where we dawdle at every conceivable opportunity to improve our condition, Silicon Valley forges ahead. Where we make excuses for not taking action or whittle away at every suggestion to improve our condition as harebrained, Silicon Valley embraces the craziness of their efforts, and before you know it they are drilling holes in the ground to combat congestion – see Elon Musk, or funding 700 mph Hylerloop contests. No – not every idea will bear fruit, just as most startups will fail, but they have mastered what we more often than not miss – you must START if you want to move UP. The Valley is a startup machine, churning new ideas into companies like a Mennonite churns butter. I’m married to one, a Mennonite that is, so I should know.
What does this have to do with transportation you ask? If you’re referencing the butter – well, very little. But if you are interested in the advent of the 4th industrial revolution – where Artificial Intelligence and the emerging 5G communications network will rock our world like nothing mankind has experienced since the Beatles – follow along.
Indeed just a day prior to the conference – a small group of us did follow the shadow of Elon Musk to his grand Tesla Factory in Fremont, CA – large enough to hold 1,000 football fields. There I saw young tattooed factory workers sporting the latest in fashionable Tesla apparel typing furiously on laptops as robots moved in synchronous fashion, more art than simple labor, to build the next generation of sustainable electric autonomous vehicles designed to save our planet from extinction, or at least buy us enough time until we can build settlements on Mars.
The Alliance is not satisfied to wait until Musk builds my future retirement home on Mars to jump start our transportation network, and with it, spark a job-creating binge in the Alliance area. We are starting today and we have ….. a plan.
Our collective 5 Anchors, who over the next 10 years will invest BILLIONS to grow their respective institutions, all are located within .5 miles of each other. More importantly, our Anchors pledge to work together to create a vibrant live, work, play, study and stay Innovation District.
Plus ( dramatic pause )
Our 230 plus general members are committed to an unprecedented collaborative partnership that forges our destiny into one common purpose – build a live, work, play, study and stay Innovation District. Translation: build a high wage job generating machine …
linked by “next generation” transportation technology.
Tampa Bay “can” and will surge ahead of the top metros in America, through the power of the Tampa Innovation Alliance and its multi-billion dollar economic impact, a vibrant multimodal transportation network, and connectivity to our downtown, Westshore District, airport, and other points in between.
HyperLINK our AV Catalyst
So what you ask is the first mover? How do we “start”?
The Answer, grasshopper, is HyperLINK – a unique pilot project created by FDOT – 7, HART, Transdev (the worlds private sector leader in sustainable mobility), in partnership with The Tampa Innovation Alliance AND very soon – Robot Cars.
Robot cars? Yes Will Robinson, I said Robot Cars, or in the Valley parlance, autonomous vehicles. The autonomous vehicle is an AI or artificial intelligence computer platform on wheels – designed to whisk us to our destinations without the hassle of us needing to focus on driving while texting, turning our car into an entertainment center or work platform. Furthermore, autonomous ride share may ultimately free us of our need to even own a car, something which next to our home is one of our largest investments, but which tends to sit unused 94% of the day.
The Alliance is committed to bringing these vehicles to Tampa Bay.
We missed the rail-vo-lution, which admittedly requires big publicly financed fixed costs and which moves a relatively small number of total trips. But we have the opportunity to jujitsu our way past other metros be zeroing in on the emerging AV revolution. This is not to suggest that fixed guideway won’t be needed. It will. But rather than begin our movement towards the elite top 10 for economically vibrant metros with fixed rail; I suggest we use the catalyst of the emerging autonomous vehicle tech revolution to propel our transportation network forward, leapfrogging other regions which have sunk massive fixed costs in rail. This does not mean we have the luxury of resting or slapping ourselves on the back for missing earlier opportunities.
Yes – Tampa has missed more opportunities to invest in transit than Jed Clampett missed shooting at some food, but like with his misses, we might actually have hit upon some bubbling crude, which by that I mean AV technology.
Our community, by missing on other opportunities (see Jed) has the ability to now hit upon the AV revolution which in 10 years shall transform the world as we presently know it into a far more organized, efficient and safe transportation system.
So join us as we leap into the next dimension of quantum transportation mechanics. Help us make HyperLINK a success. Follow us as we travel to Silicon Valley and Detroit to build the most robust transportation network in America.
Let’s take a page from Silicon Valley and beat them at their own game.
That’s my Byte for now –
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