Dallas Startup Week Panelists: How Dallas Is Becoming A Hub for Autonomous Transportation

The virtual panel of leaders from Ericsson and Kodiak discussed Dallas' growth and how startups can seek funding and partnerships from large corporations.

As day one of Dallas Startup Week 2020 came to a close, panelists shared their take on the growing transportation industry and how Dallas is establishing itself in the future of the industry during one of the day’s final panels titled “Why Dallas For Autonomous Transportation.” 

Panelists included Clint Hill, Transportation Planner for North Central Texas Council of Governments; Dr. Brenda Conner, Director of IoT Portfolio Application for Ericsson; and Don Lepard of Texas Operations at Kodiak.ai.

The discussion was led by three questions for startups and entrepreneurs to take away to use in their companies’ development. Here’s what the panelists had to say.

“DFW is a huge logistics hub”

Hill began the conversation by talking about the incredible growth of the region in the realm of automated vehicles with North Central Texas Council of Governments and the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Serving as part of the MPO for the 16-county DFW region, Hill helps plan all of the roadways in the region with four or more lanes, allocating around $136 billion worth of funds to the plans for the DFW region.

“I refer to the 16-county DFW region, so about 9.5 million people, expected to be about 12 million here in the next 15 to 25 years,” Hill said during the panel. “We are the region’s metropolitan planning organization, and we have a lot of responsibility when it comes to the region.”

Hill also discussed the growth of autonomous transportation in the region and how the growth is making DFW a “huge logistics hub.”

“We’ve had two major developments in ‘robotaxis’ where vehicles pull up on demand and take people somewhere—both of those were hosted by drive.ai. We’ve had two people mover projects in the region, one in Arlington out in the stadium area running between each stadium and one out at the airport. We’ve had at least two sidewalk delivery robot developments, one right now is active at the University of Texas at Dallas,” Hill said. “DFW is a huge logistics hub, so it makes a lot of sense to get that kind of deployment up and running here.”

Available investment and funding opportunities

Lepard spoke about Kodiak.ai’s opportunities and noted that as an organization, they are focused on partnerships with entrepreneurs.

“We’re really focused on partnerships, it’s really starting to grow some of that logistics DNA because there is a lot of tech and logistics. A lot of people think that if you think about freight movement, you think it’s just truckers moving stuff and it’s not. There’s a vast amount of logistics that falls into that so we’re really working on those kind of partnerships as far as that’s concerned when it comes to in this space,” Lepard said.

Dr. Conner also talked about Ericsson’s focus on working with innovative companies or startups.

“We actually try to be easy to work with and we put everything on our websites,” Dr. Conner said during the panel. “One area that’s important for startups is the whole funding area of investment and some people don’t know that we have an Ericsson Ventures Group, where Ericsson invests in some startups. We look to foster an ecosystem because we do what we do well, but we don’t try and do everything. That ecosystem needs help.”

For more information about partnerships with Kodiak.ai and Ericsson, visit their websites.

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