Driving L.A. into the Future
Los Angeles County, longstanding car culture capital of the U.S., is fueling the growth of the next generation of transportation. From autonomous vehicles and other forms of intelligent transport, to EVs and alternative fuels, smart grid and vehicle-to-grid, L.A is leading the way in design, manufacture and agency procurement.
L.A. County is a region with competitive advantage and wide-ranging activity in development and deployment of new mobility solutions, including such areas as electric vehicle systems and design, autonomous vehicles and related subsystems, the Hyperloop transportation mode, connected car, zero emission trucks and buses, new tunneling concepts, and regional energy storage infrastructure that supports electrification of transit. We may not build many cars in L.A. County, but the region is central to design, R&D, innovation and engineering that sets the foundation for the world’s cars. Of course, L.A. is home to over 20 automotive design studios serving all the major automotive brands.
In the electric vehicle market alone, Tesla’s design facility is here, electric car company Faraday Future headquarters is located here, electric car developer Canoo (formerly Evelozcity) is located here, electric car maker Karma Automotive is in the region. Over half a dozen electric bus makers are based here, including BYD, Proterra, EBus, Trams International, Complete Coach Works and U.S. Hybrid Corp, and these OEMs are moving into adjacent heavy duty market applications, like heavy duty trucks and BYD’s new battery electric yard tractors for moving containers at ports and multimodal facilities. Electric freight truck company Thor Trucks (now named XOS) is located here. Many advanced subsystems are also built here, such as advanced designs for battery packs at companies such as L.A.-based Romeo Power. New models for electric truck rental are also being created in L.A., such as Chanje, a partnership with Ryder.
L.A. area residents, large organizations and government agencies are also early adopters of electric vehicle technology, with one of the highest adoption rates in the U.S., enabling manufacturers to find local markets. LA METRO is increasingly purchasing electric buses for its fleet, creating a local market for LA-based manufacturers. Many of these municipalities and agencies prefer to procure from local companies, which may have been a factor for Proterra’s move to City of Industry in LA County, among others.
Additionally, autonomous (self-driving) systems development is strong in Los Angeles, with a deep talent base and numerous companies in the region, such as Strobe, the Pasadena-based LiDAR company that was acquired by GM to develop its Cruise autonomous driving systems (now called GM Cruise Automation). The region is also utilizing autonomous technologies to pilot development of new ownership and on-demand models, where you may summon a driverless car from your phone app. In addition, many of the complex subsystems in the next-gen vehicle market have roots in L.A’s aerospace industry, giving the region a deep and experienced talent pool and significant R&D resources.
EV charging infrastructure companies such as Tritium (charger hardware) and EV Safecharge are located in the region. And, due to the rapid deployment of EV infrastructure for Southern California, all the charging networks have an LA presence. There is also significant hydrogen and CNG refueling infrastructure in LA County.
Two companies in the region are developing the futuristic Hyperloop transportation mode, with speeds estimated to 750 mph, which adds to the fabric of the Advanced Transportation sector in L.A. There is also substantial work in the region on developing high-speed transit concepts for dedicated roadway lane autonomous vehicles.
The roots on this alternative vehicle industry can be traced back many years, drawing from not only the massive regional aerospace industry, but also L.A.’s constant innovation around electric cars and related subsystems like battery management. Commercialization of alternative fuels including hydrogen is also driving R&D activities, due in part to the hydrogen fueling stations located throughout LA County, proximity to research universities, and business activity such as Honda America’s hydrogen fuel cell research and development.
Other examples of the disruptive potential of L.A.-based innovation are Divergent 3D (developing a new additive manufacturing technology with potential to become the car manufacturing process of the future), and the partnership between L.A.-based Esri, a mapping data powerhouse, and Mobileye to feed visual and telematics data from sensors affixed to buses and other vehicles into Esri’s mapping platform already used by most of the world’s large cities. On the subject of mapping, another asset in the region is City of LA’s computerized traffic light and parking meter systems, and the data links from those systems to outside developers like Waze, creating new kinds of big data partnerships that allow continuing innovation. The Boring Company is based in LA County and developing a tunnel-based high speed transit system, with test tunnels in the LA westside region.
While this summary is just a sampling of activity, the rapid advances in this industry cluster position Los Angeles as a key locus of investment, talent and technology, creating well-paying jobs and a future-forward economic sector.
To help our local businesses with success and create greater job growth, the industry must be represented by the leaders who are shaping its future. In short, LAEDC needs industry executives to join with us (see link to the right for E4 industry council). Attend e4 meetings to stay abreast of the tremendous activity in EV and automous vehicle development and deployment, and connect with procurement opportunities.