Workforce Development and the Future of Smart Mobility

By Rich Granger, managing director, Workforce Development, DriveOhio

As DriveOhio and Smart Columbus launched our first phase of testing self-driving shuttles around the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus, and Honda demonstrated its “smart intersection” camera and sensor technologies as part of the Connected Marysville project along the US 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, one thing often overlooked are the positive workforce impacts of such projects.

But that’s something we fully consider whenever DriveOhio introduces a project, as workforce development is a core part of our mission to support and advance Ohio’s smart mobility future. In fact, we take a four-pronged approach to workforce development, launching these initiatives as new projects begin:

  • Prepare workers for emerging smart mobility jobs
  • Train and transition potentially disrupted employees into new jobs
  • Attract companies and jobs in the smart mobility industry to Ohio
  • Ensure equitable access to education and jobs through mobility

One example in preparing and educating workers for new jobs comes from Connected Marysville, where video cameras and short-range communications units will transfer traffic condition and intersection information between traffic signals and 1,500 public and private vehicles. By capturing and sending this information between connected infrastructure and vehicles, dangerous accidents at intersections can be avoided while also smoothing the flow of traffic across the city.

And those 1,500 on-board units need to be installed, so we’re working with students and educators at high school career-technical centers and early college high schools, community colleges and universities to learn about the technology and take on the job of installing those on-board units. They’ll not only gain the knowledge around new and expanding smart mobility technology, but also get the experience of doing real work with it – while building their resumes at the same time.

Testing new smart mobility technologies always comes with additional investment, and that can mean more work for existing jobs or new jobs altogether. In fact, the self-driving shuttles just launched in downtown Columbus will add 26 jobs to the city, including an operator on board at all times. Moreover, any of DriveOhio’s future self-driving shuttle projects will include an operator, both to assist passengers and to take control of the vehicle at any time if needed. Finally, the first- and last-mile goal of self-driving shuttles like these is to serve places where traditional transit lines do not, giving people access to mobility options they didn’t previously have.

That said, we are also providing education around the self-driving shuttle technology, both for passengers and young students. We’re working on interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) based design learning opportunities, giving students an inside look at the technologies that make self-driving shuttles possible. This will, at an early age, get our future workers interested in these cutting-edge technologies and help them to start considering potential career pathways.

Autonomous and connected technologies will have a dramatic impact on our mobility options and our workforce. DriveOhio is working with a wide variety of public and private partners to unlock the benefits of smart mobility by developing these technologies and capabilities, the workers to fill these new and enticing jobs we are attracting, as well as the routes to get them there.

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