April 8, 2022

Visionaries discuss commercialization of next-gen mobility technology across the supply chain

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With conversation exploding around bottlenecks in supply chain and logistics, new trends are emerging on how to problem solve and scale rapidly, and the team at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) has consistently been at the helm of facilitating impactful conversations and driving strategic partnerships with key players in the public and private sectors to push innovation in surface and air mobility to new heights.

During the inaugural Forward Fort Worth summit held in Fort Worth in early March 2022, the Hillwood team hosted a combination of mobility visionaries, regulatory officials, and leaders in the public and private sectors to collaborate and network on a common goal – the commercialization of mobility technology across the supply chain. Discussion abounded between key players in the industry on how we can make transportation and mobility safer and more efficient, and bring the world one step closer to autonomy on the ground and in the air.

An overarching obstacle plaguing this industry is a labor shortage. It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant pressure on the supply chain and, subsequently, the labor force participation rate. Logistics transportation companies face obstacles with bottlenecks and workforce shortages – and the industry is currently 100,000 drivers short. Optimizing freight operations to include automation and shared ecosystems will help solve this, and mobility visionaries see automation and strategic partnerships as the clear answer. Automation will help relieve the pressure of finding drivers and balance the extreme seasonality of onboarding labor. Partnerships between the public and private sectors are critical, and human connection is key to solving these problems. The goal is workforce enablement, not elimination. And the AllianceTexas MIZ is the community and ecosystem with the right resources and infrastructure to advance partnerships and policy in the right direction.

At the core, electrification and automation are the future of supply chain innovation if the industry plans to scale at the speed experts predict and need. Electric charging will pave the way to full autonomy, with automation key to keeping people in the equation for more detailed and complex tasks. However, digital integration will present a major challenge. With so much fragmented data, synergistic systems will be essential. This technology needs to be deployed in high-density areas and rural areas equally to disperse jobs and facilitate cross-country growth that advanced surface technology will create. Solving these problems is vital to getting us to true automation across the supply chain.

While experts continue to work together to solve the problems the industry currently faces, it is equally important to look toward the next generation and the critical role that connectivity, rapid adoption of technology, and talent recruitment will play in this space. The philosophy with new technology is to adopt early or get left behind. It’s that simple. Visionary leaders concur that the most important facet of technology to consider is connectivity, and systems need to talk to each other to achieve interoperability. Connectivity can mean a few different things for automation, but it is undoubtedly the lynchpin for all digital technology and infrastructure. The next generation of mobility technologies will rely heavily on robots and automation to help execute everyday tasks and subsequently open their workday to handle high-level, important decisions. The team at the AllianceTexas MIZ is working to facilitate faster technology adoption to ensure swift transition into the commercialization of next-generation mobility solutions. A shift in thinking is in order – it’s not the ROI earned if we do adopt, but the ROI lost if we fall behind the curve.

Hillwood’s AllianceTexas MIZ team is leading the charge in North Texas. Their vision to combine public-private partnerships, world-class infrastructure, and real estate to test and commercialize cutting-edge technology is pushing companies to scale quickly and efficiently to support the future of surface and air mobility.

This article was originally published in the Austin Business Journal.