A net-zero future doesn’t have to kill the two-car garage — log | CarTailz

This story is part of The Future of Mobility, a special report of the Protocol. Read more here.

Michigan is home to Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and dozens of their automotive suppliers. The state that spawned the American auto industry now wants to help manage its transformation: from gas to electric and hydrogen and from human-powered to autonomous.

Zachary Kolodin, Michigan’s Chief Infrastructure Officer, is tasked with heralding that future. The state can lead in decarbonization, Kolodin believes, and move towards a net-zero future that still leaves room for the car. To that end, Michigan secured $110 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to expand its electric vehicle charging network. And in September, Michigan joined a coalition of states that formed the Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition, which aims to leverage the $8 billion made available to clean hydrogen centers under the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Kolodin is also involved with the Automated Vehicle Corridor, a $130 million Ford-led project that will deploy the latest vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technologies on a stretch of freeway connecting Ann Arbor and Detroit. This project ends just a stone’s throw from Michigan Central Station, a designated urban zone for testing new mobility solutions created through a public-private partnership between Google, Ford, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. The state has allocated $126 million in resources to the program.

However, Kolodin points out that the future of mobility is not the top infrastructure priority for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Rather, it’s about the basics: making sure people drive to work safely, drain the water from their homes, and generally “have all the things people need to build a good life for themselves,” Kolodin explained.

Michigan faces challenges in meeting these day-to-day needs. According to the Department of Transportation, the state has 7,345 miles of highways in poor condition. Commuting times have increased over the past decade, and drivers can expect to pay an average of $644 a year for vehicle repairs due to poor road conditions. Fortunately, the state is poised to receive about $9 billion in federal funding over the next five years to address some of these issues.

Speaking to Protocol, Kolodin discussed the downstream impact of autonomous vehicle deployment, how better permitting can reduce infrastructure costs, and why mobility innovations need not be limited to urban areas.

This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

Of all the forward-looking transport technologies, are there any that you think are particularly over- or underestimated?

Most people don’t realize how dangerous the roads are in a relative sense: America’s roads are more dangerous than roads in other parts of the world, and driving on roads is more dangerous than using any other mode of transportation.

I think the exciting thing about connected and autonomous vehicles is that they offer us a way out of this trap. Once fully tested and deployed on an infrastructure that supports their use, connected and autonomous vehicles should be much more predictable and reliable than vehicles operated by human drivers. So you could see a really significant reduction in vehicle related fatalities.

We would all like to find a way to avoid the loss of friends and families to transportation-related deaths. It’s a way out and I find it really exciting. But there is [still] There is much work to be done to both get these vehicles within people’s budgets and to make people comfortable with being in a vehicle that doesn’t necessarily drive based on their intuition as to what the safest and fastest way to drive is would.

Taking this a step further, are there other benefits of autonomous vehicles that you think are underestimated?

Many of the delays we experience on the roads are also caused by human error. If someone misjudged the condition of the road, didn’t understand that the roads are slippery – whatever the case, all this causes really significant delays. It makes people late for work, causes hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity, and really pisses people off.

So if you had a world where you could be reasonably sure you wouldn’t be late for your commute, maybe we could all get 10 extra minutes of coffee in the morning with our families, or maybe get a little more sleep. And I think that would be a good thing. It combines these exciting technologies with improvements in our quality of life that are sometimes missing from the conversation.

There has been much talk of fully autonomous vehicles changing car ownership models – which in many cases means ownership is abolished altogether. For example, there has been talk of people relying solely on a vehicle service that they can call via a ride-hailing app. Do you see this happening?

I really don’t know to be honest. I used to live in New York City. When we lived there we either had zero cars or one car. Now in Michigan we have two cars. I think one of the reasons people choose to live in a place like Michigan is because they enjoy the experience of getting in their car and experiencing the Great Lakes or the kind of tourism opportunities that come through powerful and easy roads will allow access to cars.

So I don’t know if that’s going to change, because a lot of people enjoy this way of living their lives. When we think about what it will take to get to a future where Michigan has net zero carbon emissions, I still think the future has room for the automobile. We have clear paths to net-zero carbon emissions where people still buy Fords or where people still live with two car garages and take trips to the Upper Peninsula. It’s all still possible — it just depends on our ability to build and fund renewable energy, have flexible, low-carbon or zero-carbon baseload power, and keep down the cost of the raw materials that go into making our cars, solar panels, and all that stuff

Why is the cost of building infrastructure in the US still so high, especially when compared to other countries?

It’s a complicated subject. I think one of the reasons for higher costs in the US – not for all projects, but certainly for some – is the difficulty and unpredictability of the permitting process.

Environmental impact assessment challenges can pull a project off schedule, often costing both taxpayers and developers millions of dollars. We strongly believe that protecting the environment is a key priority – but I think we also recognize that if we are to build the infrastructure assets we need to support this transition, we need to be able to get projects through the permitting process clean energy need a more predictable and reliable method.

That’s why we started this effort to streamline approval. Over time, we think it will make Michigan a more attractive place to invest — because it’s becoming clear that this is a place where you can actually build things — and it should also reduce costs by taking some of the uncertainty out of the process .

Two and a half years after the first case of COVID-19, we are [still] Dealing with really serious supply chain issues and employee ownership challenges. Both could drive up costs, and I think Governor Whitmer recognizes that this poses a really serious risk to our infrastructure ambitions. We’re doing everything we can to train a skilled workforce to build high-speed Internet [and] roads, and also to bring production back to the United States so that we can guarantee the reliability of our supply chain, reduce transportation costs and create jobs.

Much of Michigan is rural. Do you feel that there is less room for infrastructure innovation in these areas as many current solutions seem to be focused on urban mobility?

In an urban environment, different modes of transport interact much more with each other than in a rural environment. So this type of smart technology is indeed experiencing some of its toughest testing conditions in the urban environment. So part of the answer is that if we want to advance our locomotion and use the latest technologies, it probably makes sense to deploy those technologies first in more rural settings where there are fewer complications from bicycles. scooters and the like. Then we can make sure they work before deploying them in urban environments.

So in terms of job creation and the opportunity to be involved in innovation, there really is room for rural areas to get involved. That being said, there are really exciting ways to do tests around town too once you get the technology to a more advanced level. That’s what Michigan Central Station’s public-private partnership with Ford is all about: creating a transportation innovation zone where you can test these advanced technologies in an environment designed to support this type of testing in a city.

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