Area Mayors Talk about Autonomous Vehicles

Mayors from around the region met this week to talk about one of the hottest topics in transportation technology – autonomous vehicles (AV).

The East Tennessee Mayors Caucus, a group of mayors from 16 area counties, convened on February 5 at the Knoxville headquarters of Local Motors, a manufacturer on the front lines of AV development.

The Mayors Caucus encourages collaboration among elected leaders in our region. They tackle common problems and work toward shared goals of growing our regional prosperity and improving our quality of life. At this session, the mayors wanted to hear more about connected and autonomous vehicles, and how that technology may shape the region’s economy, transportation network, and development patterns.

Brad Rutherford, Vice President of Sales for Local Motors, welcomed the mayors to their Knoxville Microfactory, which specializes in materials science and research and is heavily focused on 3D printing. Olli, the world’s first 3D-printed self-driving shuttle, is produced at the Knoxville facility.

Kelley Segars, Principal Planner with the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, gave an overview of connected and autonomous vehicles and how cities can prepare, and guide, the coming changes. Jeff Branham, Chief Traffic Engineer for the City of Knoxville, followed Kelley with a discussion on the many projects and programs the City is running related to technology and intelligent transportation, including testing of Olli downtown.

Manager of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development at ORNL, Jesse Smith, then talked about TennSMART, a public-private consortium working to advance the development and deployment of intelligent mobility innovations in Tennessee. The group focuses on connected and automated vehicles, heavy duty trucking and freight efficiency, cybersecurity, electric vehicles, and multimodal commuting.

After hearing about the region’s tech advances, the mayors discussed some of the resultant challenges and opportunities facing their communities, including cybersecurity, insurance, and permitting.

Brad Rutherford capped off the Caucus with a tour of Local Motors’ state of the art facility, showcasing some of their printed cars and parts. (If you want to learn more about Olli and the other innovative things happening at Local Motors, visit