Gov. Terry McAuliffe bounded into the spare offices of a start-up incubator to make a rapid-fire pronouncement: He will spend the last nine months of his term trying to make Virginia “the capital of automated vehicles.”
It was his economic development-meets-standup routine, and the commonwealth’s salesman in chief had industry leader California and other rivals in mind. With more than 280 wineries, Virginia is already on the Golden State’s heels in a crucial industry, the argument went.
“They’re going to think Napa is an auto parts company!” McAuliffe (D) jabbed, knocking the “lighter fluid out there.”
And driverless cars and drones, in air and water, are next up. “I want to own the land, the water and the sky,” McAuliffe told the roomful of tech execs and mobility wonks in Arlington County. “We’re going to bury those other 49 states. Worthless!”
It’s a goal shared by officials around the country, although often expressed with less competitive glee. Michigan, with its auto industry roots, has fought for a leading role, as has Pennsylvania, home to Carnegie Mellon University, which is among the institutions at the forefront of driverless-vehicle research. Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona and others are in the mix, too.