Charging stations

Electric automobile charging stations were installed in front of the Forum River Center in Rome in late 2020.

The future of the automotive industry is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to predict precisely how people are going to get from here to there in the future.

Rick Walker, president and CEO of the Georgia Automotive Manufacturers Association, said he believes Rome is ideally situated to host new companies in the supply chain for both autonomous and electric vehicles.

“Changes are underway,” Walker said. He spent most of his presentation to the chamber group on electronic and autonomous automobiles.

Walker said that over the last four decades, the Southeast has become a hotbed for automotive manufacturing and suggested that Rome is well- positioned to tie into the supply chain for the automotive industry as it evolves with new technologies.

Walker, who is a patent attorney by trade, said that the number of patents are being issued in the autonomous vehicle sector but that a lot of work remains to be done.

One example involved the sensors for one particular model which started to slow down because it confused a circular Burger King sign up the road for a stop sign.

“Self driving is becoming a game of partnerships,” Walker said. “I don’t think a week goes where I don’t see another announcement about some OEM getting together with another non-traditional auto supplier to do great things.”

He mentioned the partnerships of car manufacturers and tech companies: Mercedes and Nvidia as well as GM and Cruise along with Hyundai and Aptiv as specific examples.

Even within the electric vehicle industry itself technological changes are coming rapidly, including ideas concerning a wireless induction method of charging vehicles while parked or even while moving across sections of the interstate highway.

“All of the major players are getting involved with electric vehicles,” Walker said. In addition to the existing major manufacturers, companies like Fisker, Lucid, Rivian, Electra Meccanica, BlackRock and Foxconn are getting into the industry.

“A lot of this is based on new components, new suppliers, new software,” Walker said. “To participate in this area as a manufacturer or supplier, you don’t need to be a Kia and build a billion dollar plant. Component suppliers can start in a small industrial park in Rome.”

“We want to be the hub in the ABC (Atlanta, Birmingham, Chattanooga) triangle,” said Thomas Kislat, director of membership and entrepreneurial development at the chamber.

With a new administration in Washington, Walker expects that green efforts in the automotive manufacturing and infrastructure will take on a new prominence.

Recommended for you