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Just say the word “Drone” and imaginations runs wild.. Since I acquired Hobby Lobby, International (now Hobby Express) the Radio Control industry has enjoyed about five complete cycles of technology revolution. As exciting as it is, my team never lost focus on the pilot who was also an expert builder, dedicated to the craftsmanship required to build one of our airplanes. The shift to mass produced craft commonly called “drones” expanded access and inspired a lot of commercial applications for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (“UAV”). Right out of the box, even a micro drone offers integrated HD video and it’s so easy to fly that everyone wants one for a birthday or Christmas gift. That’s all great – right – but it’s no challenge and you don’t really learn much about the technology and systems behind the vehicle. Is this an opportunity lost? Jobs are being created to fly drones that serve commercial needs and there is a national awareness that we need to be more competitive in Science, Technology and Math. We are pleased to see Model Airplane News recognized this opportunity in education. The interest in building remote control aircraft is resurging. Large fixed wing platforms like the Telemaster are widely recognized for their instrumentation carry capacity, as well as their inexpensive and reliable flight dynamics. Today we release the Kickstarter campaign that creates the ideal STEM curriculum for three innovative educational experiences designed around the Telemaster platform. The high school student near you could be participating in a “Supply Chain Management” course, learning about “Building, Power Systems and Flight Engineering” and imagine their excitement for a hands on “Product Innovation and Design” course using this real world topic. It’s something they can influence and even FLY when they complete the proper course. If you’re inspired like I am, consider letting your imagination run wild for a minute to support our launch and make sure there is no opportunity lost.

On tomorrow’s commute to Nashville, 95% of the people you see in the HOV lane will be alone in their car at rush hour. Those people must be very important.

We know we’re breaking the law when we do it. But who is looking? Compared to all other states, Tennessee ranks at the very bottom of the list for HOV citations. The idea HOV regulations can’t be enforced is nonsensical when we’re giving citations to people who speed or drive like slow pokes. It’s not about the safety of an officer, it’s a choice and therefore a de facto public policy to look the other way on Tennessee HOV laws.

The consequence is we don’t have HOV lanes. We see miles of single occupant vehicles clogging the HOV lane at rush hour, ignoring their intended purpose, which is to offer an incentive for tens of thousands of long distance commuters to ride the bus or carpool. That means we have guaranteed congestion. Nobody wins.

I’m happy to see high capacity mass transit alternatives proposed that relieve demand on our road network. It’s an expensive, 25 year vision with no immediate path to relief.

Between now and then, here’s why we should demand politicians and law enforcement policy makers give us back our HOV lanes:
  1. It’s the law, but we all know that. For 22 hours a day HOV lanes are for everyone, but for two hours leave it for the bus, electric vehicles, motorcycles and carpoolers.
  2. Sharing the ride on a daily commute is the single best way to take cars off the road, which is the single best way to address congestion in the near term.
  3. Long distance commuters have the greatest financial incentive to carpool and when they do, fewer cars come to Nashville. One reason they don’t ride-share is becauseof all those “important people” in their HOV lane stealing their reward.
  4. Middle Tennessee could put more frequent and super fast bus service into action to reduce traffic immediately, by doing nothing more than treating the HOV lane like it is intended, for two hours a day, or
  5. Bus traffic goes on highway shoulders. Reconstructing shoulders to carry a burden it was not designed for is more expensive and less efficient than HOV enforcement.

On the way to building, taxing and developing alternatives transportation capacity that serves long term regional growth, we should at least try to respect an existing incentive that can change driving behaviors now. That starts with you. If you choose to drive by yourself, resist the temptation to jump into the HOV lane. Instead, get on the bus and celebrate when two people pass you in a car.

Nashville is one of the best places to live, but the success of “It City” brings traffic. Our average commute is 49 minutes. A typical long distance commute takes almost an hour and a half during a rush hour that lasts three hours.

When 350,000 cars plow into Davidson County each and every morning, there are few parking spots left for anyone. Beat traffic early or get a parking migraine late.

Some think the solution is mass transit, and there is a vision proposed for a $6B investment over 25 years. Great! What will we do between now and then?

The cause of our headache is the source of our pain: about 98% of these 350,000 cars have one person in them, taking up one parking spot. How painful does it have to get before we change behavior?

I think the solution is long distance ride sharing. Good old fashioned carpooling where driver and rider negotiate a price, even if it’s free. Hytch has developed a smartphone app that makes it easy to build your group of carpool pals.

From Murfreesboro, 38,000 people hit the road every day. City Mayor Shane McFarland shared his thoughts about the transportation strategy to beat gridlock traffic. He sees 100,000 empty seats in those cars as an opportunity. So do I.

Let’s bring our Southern Hospitality into the car, get social and come together to solve the problem and share the ride.

Nobody likes to waste time. If it happens like clockwork – twice a day – it’s infuriating. Congestion is a time thief. The question is, how do you fight back?

Some people fight traffic by convincing themselves they can be productive on the drive. Checking Twitter, email or sending texts takes the driver’s eye off the road. Last year in Tennessee 38,000 reported accidents were tied to texting. Frustrated people, left alone in their car, make bad decisions.

When you have a passenger, do you text and drive? Do you drink and drive?

Two people in a car are safer than one, period. You’re more responsible with passengers and more engaged socially. If you’re going to be in traffic, it’s not a question of misery loving company (which may also be true) but it’s a fact that we want someone with us on those long drives. Carpooling is how you fight the time thief. Two people make our highways safer by taking one car off the road. So why don’t we do it?

Every day 350,000 cars pile into Davidson County to report for work. Going back to Rutherford County, 38,000 cars slug home while 21,000 slow walk back to Clarksville. Nearly every car has one occupant. Maybe we’re not in enough pain yet:
  • The daily commute inside Rutherford County is 30 minutes!
  • The average long distance commute on I-24 is over 70 minutes each way.

We can do better. This is a car centered culture. Responding to the flood in Nashville, we proved we are not a self centered culture. This means that we CAN become a car sharing culture. We just need a better tool to match empty seats with people going the same way. My team at Hytch has built an app for iOS and Android smart phones that can match friends, neighbors and co-workers with a common trip so they can share the ride. Download today and start using technology, leveraging your social network and the Hytch payment platform to share the cost of gas and fight traffic.

At the end of a long day, you should be looking forward to getting home. When you’re sharing the ride you might secretly look forward that commute too.

With the passage of SB 1561 this morning, Tennessee can become the first state to modify the definition of a driver to include an intelligent control system.

Let that sink in for a second… 

The computer brains that make the Self Driving Car function autonomously, can legally control the vehicle.  In newer cars, the technology appears in the form of “driver assist” technology.   Software keeps you in your lane, manages distances between vehicles at cruise speeds, applies braking power in dire circumstances, parks your Tesla without you… it even wakes your Tesla from its slumber so that your car pulls up in front of you as if a valet is at the wheel (but nobody is there).

Such is an amazing foundation of intelligent control systems is already available.

The next step is for State Representative Mike Carter to bring a companion bill, HB 1564 to the floor.   A reconciliation process follows that vote, then assuming Governor Bill Haslam signs it, we find ways to leverage this event for Tennessee.

What’s special?  Senator Mark Green started the dialog with leading automotive industry players and kept the outcome simple.

Without writing complex regulations that apply to a technology clearly moving faster than society is prepared to admit and without giving one manufacturer an unfair advantage or creating new barriers to competition with safety rules and design constraints – Tennessee recognized and enabled auto industry creativity.  

Nashville and other cities in Tennessee should start developing strategies to create testing and development friendly incentive zones in their core.  Big cities and little cities each have something to offer in creating an environment where industry can test, deploy and develop self driving transportation.

Congratulations Senator Mark Green and soon, Representative Mike Carter.

Meet Robby, the “piloted” autonomous Audi I was a big fan of David Letterman’s “TOP TEN” list.  His countdown to “…the number one reason why…” was my highlight of late night.  With far less cynical undertones, here is another “Top 10” list that brings a big smile — and evidence that Tennessee is thinking in the right terms about transportation solutions.

It’s the Top 10 Places to Watch for Autonomous Vehicle Developments offering information about the most innovative approaches to fostering self driving car technologies in American cities, counties and states.  Love the interactive map!

Introduced to start the conversation in Tennessee SB 1561 is a comprehensive attempt to address significant issues and bring enabling definitions into code.   

Innovation in Las Vegas offer a creative example for Metro Nashville leaders, or really anyone in a local leadership position who is paying attention to the topic.

The best example of leadership at the executive level features the Governor of Arizona’s Executive order 2015-09 directing strategies to address the promise and real opportunities of this fast emerging technology.

It’s not a question of when.  It’s a question of why not now.   Your car benefits from Moore’s Law while at the same time offering a significantly larger format for innovation.  To house the computing power for intelligent driving the auto industry (compared to computer industry) has no pressure to simultaneously make the product into something you can hold in your hand.  

Today’s cars are computers on wheels.  Imagine right now, David Letterman is about to say “…the number one reason why…” your car should just grow up and learn to drive itself is… because working from your garage, you could buy a car today that can be turned into an autonomous vehicle tomorrow.   

It’s official.  A networked computer will soon replace YOU in the driver’s seat, and you’ll fall absolutely in love with being a full time, care free passenger!  

Five days ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc. (love how that can read “AI” with no imagination) that it agrees with the principal that the definition of a “driver” should be expanded to include a computer.  The letter dated Feb 4 appears grossly underreported and just showed up on the agency’s website this week.

Vehicle safety regulators in a 31 page document essentially says that an artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered “the driver” under federal law.  
This is a major step toward winning federal and state approvals for autonomous vehicles operating on our roads.  It will also redefine every conversation about what “mass transit” means and what our infrastructure priorities should be.

Redefining the driver is a strategy openly discussed by State Senator Mark Greenwhen developing the language for SB 1561 and while preparing potential revisions with participants in the Tennessee Autonomous Vehicle Legislative Task Force.  The first formal meeting is tomorrow afternoon at the Tennessee State Capitol, provided we’re not shut down by snow.  Obviously, Mother Nature is the ultimate arbiter of roadway access, no matter who the driver might be.

“NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants,” NHTSA’s letter said.

“We agree with Google [that] its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years.”

For more information read this article.

Planning is underway to create Nashville’s first smart hotel: Stanza Nashville. This “Next Generation Hotel” will bring together smart phone technology and smart transportation options to create a truly unique experience for the 21st century consumer. But to have a Smart Hotel with Smart Transportation options, you need the support infrastructural support of a Smart City. That’s exactly the groundwork taking place now in legislation as well as the business sector.

“Stanza Nashville intends to deliver the richest experience at the lowest cost for a hotel stay within blocks of the Music City Convention Center and Broadway. To be a low cost provider, you have to eliminate unnecessary costs, like cars and parking garages.  In fact, our approach to transportation is part of our competitive advantage.  Bachelorette parties and other groups do not need or want rental cars in a Smart City like Nashville.”

Read the full article at Stanza Nashville >