WASHINGTON, DC – The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) this week hosted its Autos2050® Summit, convening industry leaders, technology innovators, and policymakers to discuss the path toward a cleaner, safer and smarter transportation future. The final day of the event included fireside chats with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, and IHS Markit Vice Charmain Daniel Yergin, as well as two panel discussions and talks from experts.

“In order to be a strong nation, you have to be able to make things and the backbone of our manufacturing sector is the automobile, and that means the backbone of vehicle 2.0, which is the electric vehicle, must be part of that industrial strategy,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in the fireside chat which kicked-off the day of discussions. “We should be responsibly refining, responsibly doing each step in the supply chain, which we can.”

While discussing how to increase market penetration for electric vehicles, Secretary Granholm said, “I really think that this notion of providing upfront incentives at the point of purchase is important.”

“Decades ago, the United States was at the forefront in semiconductor development and chip development. We were the ones who came up with the best designs, the most advanced designs. And unfortunately, we lost that productive capacity, that leadership. Most of it has gone overseas,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves during a fireside chat with John Bozzella about ways the Biden Administration and the Department of Commerce are working to bolster semiconductor capacity and supply chain resiliency. “It's that supply chain resiliency that's going to be absolutely vital to our industry, our ability to continue to lead the world, particularly in the auto industry. So giving us that peace of mind is absolutely vital to our long-term health and viability as an advanced economy.”

“The thing that experience now tells us we have to take much more seriously is supply chains,” said IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin in a fireside chat about the economic realities related to semiconductor shortages and increasing adoption of electric vehicles. “You assume these synchronized systems work, but then things start to go wrong and they multiply. So, I think that it is a cautionary tale not to take it for granted. And what you're really talking about is creating really major new supply chains that don't exist right now. You're creating new supply chains for net zero carbon.”

There were two panels featured on day two of the Summit, the first was Safety: Never Satisfied.

“As technology is advancing at a faster pace than it has before, safety must be prioritized for people both inside and outside the vehicle. And we have the panel to help us understand how this all fits together to meet our shared goal of zero fatalities,” said panel moderator, Jane Terry, Vice President of Government Affairs, National Safety Council.

“We need to continue to inform and guide public trust on technologies, we need to deploy technologies in a manner that’s not only responsible but is inviting for customers to not only desire these technologies but to demand them frankly going forward,” said panelist, Desi Ujkashevic, Global Director, Automotive Safety Office, Ford Motor Company. “We are at a point of inflection in terms of our journey to autonomous vehicles and all of us can help to contribute to getting there in a faster way.” 

“One of the things that we have found in at least the early days of driving assistance systems and our look at the challenges we face is, consumers don’t really understand what some of these systems can do,” said panelist, David Harkey, President, IIHS. “[What] we have to figure out is how do we better educate that consumer… to try to educate consumers on what these systems can do and most importantly what they cannot do.”

“Safety through connectivity is one unexplored area which can truly address in some ways also the diversity,” said panelist, Ramaswamy Iyer, Senior Vice President of Connectivity, Harman. “You really have to take into account all kinds of vehicles on the roads, not just the ones with advanced capabilities but also the ones that don’t…In order for us to reach that advanced level of safety, we have to start making some baby steps and I would truly say we need to start small while we still aim for doing bigger things.”

The second panel of the day was Stronger Links: Seeking Resiliency in Supply Chains.

“Addressing this current situation resulting in supply chain constraints must remain a top priority. As electric vehicles are set to play an important role in transportation, understanding these constraints and working to develop a more robust U.S. supply chain for electric vehicles will be especially important,” said panel moderator, Center for Automotive Research (CAR) President and CEO, Carla Bailo.

“The semiconductor shortage and what it’s done is really the ‘canary in the mine,’ and it’s the mine of all the minerals we’re going to need for an EV future,” said panelist, Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) Founder, President and CEO, Robbie Diamond. “And most of these all go through China at one point or another.”  

“It’s so important to recognize that any company can mitigate only so much supply chain risk,” said panelist,” said panelist, Third Way Senior Resident Fellow, Climate & Energy Program, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick. “With respect to capital allocated to building out the supply chain, we need to think about the team sport. And again, that federal funding to help build out and rejuvenate our domestic manufacturing to support this transition to electric vehicles is going to be absolutely critical.” 

“When it comes to semiconductors though, the big differentiator and the reason why there’s not more fab construction here on U.S. shores, is that there’s massive incentives provided by central governments around the world and countries that build chips. That’s the big differentiator and that’s what needs to be changed, like with federal incentives attached to the CHIPS Act,” said panelist, Semiconductor Industry Association President & CEO, John Neuffer. “It’s something like 40 percent more expensive to build a fab here in the US than it is overseas and its mostly because of the incentives provided by central governments abroad.” 

During the TIP Talks® portion of the day’s event, Austin Russell, Founder and CEO of Luminar, spoke about LiDAR technology. “Safety is really what it comes down to. The overall mission,” he said. “Over 1 million lives are lost on the roads globally every year…The fact that this happened on a recurring basis every single year, there’s a direct opportunity for that to stop and for that to be improved. And this is something that I think, those that solve this will have the biggest social impact on society from a safety perspective that could be seen out of any industry.”

“We are at an inflection point in history with large transformations occurring simultaneously in connectivity, autonomy, sharing, and electrification. Times like these come with tremendous opportunities, but also with significant risk. The future is so exciting, but it’s also uncertain,” said Dr. Gill Pratt, Chief Scientist, Toyota Motor Corporation, CEO, Toyota Research Institute, in a leadership talk. “Innovation requires exploration. And if you want large rewards you have to try many approaches.”

“These last two days have shown us the roadmap leading to our goals. To get where we want to go, we need everyone to be on board. Government appointees, regulators, and legislators. Startups pushing the envelope of innovation, suppliers who have been with us for decades, and companies who now see opportunities in entering the value chain. Firms that generate and distribute energy, and the people who ultimately determine success in our business, our customers. We need to make sure the transition to electrification goes smoothly and equitably,” said Auto Innovators’ Bozzella in his closing remarks. “We hope that you’ve enjoyed these sessions and that you’ll join us at future Autos2050 events as we transform the way the world drives.”