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Why Experts Say the Pacific Northwest is a ‘Perfect Laboratory’ for Autonomous Technology

Published by GeekWire

The hype cycle for autonomous vehicles may have slowed down after the March 2018 fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber car, but for AV booster Bruce Agnew, the Pacific Northwest offers a wide range of applications for the technology that go far beyond passengers traveling big-city streets.

As director of ACES — a Madrona Venture Group and INRIX-backed network promoting autonomous, connected, electric, and shared vehicles — Agnew sees the diverse geography and economic opportunities of the region as ripe for those four trends to converge in transportation.

While much of the attention on autonomous vehicles thus far has focused on their urban applications, as the everyday car driver imagines what it might be like to relinquish the wheel, that’s not where the technology is heading first, experts say.

“We’re going to see faster deployment of autonomous trucks, especially in mining and agriculture,” Agnew told GeekWire on Monday at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle on the sidelines of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER)’s Economic Leadership Forum.

PNWER is a binational economic cooperation forum headquartered in Seattle. Chartered by statute from state and provincial legislatures, it encompasses Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Northwest Territories, Oregon, Saskatchewan, Washington, and Yukon.

Agnew has traveled across this broadly defined Pacific Northwest, where he has observed innovations in electrification and autonomous vehicles far from major cities.

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Cascadia Center

Founded in 1993, as the Cascadia Project, Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center for Regional Development is an important force in regional transportation and sustainable development issues. Cascadia is known for its involvement in transportation and development issues in the Cascadia Corridor, Puget Sound and in the U.S.-Canadian cross-border realm. We’ve recently added to that mix through a major program to promote U.S. efforts to reduce reliance on foreign oil, including the earliest possible development and integration of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles.