Arkansas' Future of Mobility Accelerates


Arkansas' Future of Mobility Accelerates
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson with members of the Arkansas Council on Future Mobility (from left) Alan Mantooth, council chairman Cyrus Sigari, council members state Secretary of Transportation Lorie Tudor, state Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston and Canoo Inc. CEO Tony Aquila. (Sarah Campbell-Miller)

You probably read all about Arkansas’ push to be a leader in the electric vehicle and drone space last week when the governor announced his Arkansas Council on Future Mobility.

But what is the low-hanging fruit for the council? Chairman Cyrus Sigari, co-founder and managing partner of venture capital firm UP.Partners, told Whispers it’s continuing to loosen regulations to support more testing and deployment of autonomous technologies.

Alan Mantooth, distinguished engineering professor and researcher at the University of Arkansas, who will also serve on the council, agrees.

For example, he said, current Federal Aviation Administration regulations limit to a 1-mile radius how far a drone can be flown to deliver goods to customers. So the state could immediately focus on being a space where third parties can test and evaluate safe operation within that mile, and then petition to increase that distance limit once it has gathered enough data. “Maybe Arkansas could be the first place that the FAA chooses to evaluate a wider radius,” he said.

Sigari believes that the council will agree that this is an opportunity to not only look at the state investing in infrastructure and incentives programs, but in how it could possibly be involved in the development of an investment fund for private companies in this field.

And Mantooth expects the council to consider recommending state-funded continuing education programs, certification and vocational programs, and enhancements to existing traditional four-year degree programs. More importantly, Arkansans need scholarships and other financial incentives for would-be students, he said.

Sigari said the council will meet in the next few weeks and take its lead from other states and countries with similar initiatives.