Inspirations in times of need
In late March, as my mother lost her decade-long battle with the rare and incredibly debilitating neurodegenerative disease called PSP (progressive supra-nuclear palsy) at the same time that the world was grappling with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I would provide a more personal message to our readers.
It is important to remember the role that vehicle autonomy, connectivity, electrification, and mobility services will play in advancing new mobility safety and equity for the human race. The influx of new technology has come about via the actions of inspiring and visionary entrepreneurs at startups and traditional transportation companies on a mission to make our lives safer and easier through better mobility solutions.
For me, one of my biggest inspirations for autonomous vehicle technology goes back to 2015. Google was developing its Firefly fully self-driving cars using custom sensors, computers, steering, and braking, with no steering wheel or pedals. It produced a video that year showing legally blind Steven Mahan taking the world’s first fully self-driving ride on public roads in Austin, TX. The next year, the Google self-driving car project became Waymo under Alphabet as a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.
At the time, I thought the technology could not come soon enough to help the mobility challenged like my mom and others, as well as the larger less-fortunate and mobility-challenged population, to maintain their mobility, independence, and livelihood.
The need for safe and equitable mobility will become ever more important in the future. In the nearer term, people around the world must become less mobile, practicing social distancing and staying at home to help “flatten the curve” to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection to keep the number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers. And once again, the transportation industry is responding with inspiring efforts to help ease the crisis. To name just a few…
General Motors and Ventec Life Systems, in cooperation with StopTheSpread.org, the U.S. private sector response to the COVID-19, are collaborating to enable Ventec to increase production of its respiratory care products to support the growing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing, and manufacturing expertise to build more critically important ventilators. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec Life Systems CEO. “This partnership will help save lives.”
Ford announced that it is collaborating with 3M to manufacture powered air-purifying respirators at scale, leveraging parts from both companies to meet urgent demand for first responders and healthcare workers. Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to expand production of a simplified GE ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing. In cooperation with the United Auto Workers, Ford will assemble more than 100,000 plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers, and store clerks. The company also will leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.
Tesla has bought hospital ventilators in China and shipped them to the U.S. “China had an oversupply, so we bought 1255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips & Medtronic ventilators on Friday night & airshipped them to LA,” tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “If you want a free ventilator installed, please let us know!” The company also is in engineering discussions with Medtronic about getting patients and hospitals the tools they need—in the form of state-of-the-art ventilators—to continue saving lives.
In times of need, the industry is responding. Please use your own inspirations to work, volunteer, and donate what you can to benefit society.