How To Supercharge The Autonomous Vehicle Industry

Auto manufacturers should likewise establish in-house incubators for joint ventures with talented Israeli startups to test their technology. Depending on the stage of development, car companies could provide seed funding, but more importantly, senior executives should be incentivized to provide guidance and insight to encourage innovation. Sponsors could take a small royalty on future sales, but above all, startups would have access to experience and brainpower with an eye to promoting a better society.

Government agencies have an important role to play as well. Last May, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Israeli counterpart, Yisrael Katz, signed a formal partnership to examine autonomous vehicles. This involved a Memorandum of Cooperation stating that Israel will build a $40 million center to develop autonomous vehicles, paid for equally by Israel and the United States. They also pledged to collaborate on cybersecurity best practices and share successful models of public-private partnerships. European and Asian governments should follow suit and structure similar relationships with the Jewish state to exploit Israel's competitive advantage for their own benefit.

Following Foxx's visit to Israel, the U.S. government took an important step with an Israeli company to implement "smart" policies. Last November, as part of the Smart City Challenge, the U.S. Department of Transportation chose Columbus, Ohio as the recipient of $40 million in "smart car" grants to support its advanced transportation projects, including outfitting the city's public bus system with Mobileye. And in February 2017, Mobileye installed its anti-crash technology on 4,500 rideshare cars in New York City.

Michigan is exploring joint opportunities with Israel as well. Last December, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill allowing autonomous cars and taxis on public roads with no driver in the front seat. The governor followed up the next month with a trip to Israel, where he met with a wide variety of companies in the auto industry. "Israel has an important role in the development of autonomous vehicle technology," says Snyder. "The United States, and Michigan in particular, [have] a lot to learn from the Jewish state and we welcome their expertise." Snyder should consider following the lead of California's Jerry Brown, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014, as Michigan would benefit from techniques pioneered by Israeli scientists and engineers in this emerging field. In addition to Michigan, four other U.S. states—California, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee—and the District of Columbia have passed autonomous driving laws. If the Wolverine State wishes to remain at the head of the pack in terms of technological innovation, it would serve its interests well to work closely with Israel. This type of agreement would also encourage exchanges of startup delegations, summits, and above all, a heightened awareness of capabilities.

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