Apr 5, 2019

Governors are taking the lead on electric and autonomous vehicles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State governors, and not the federal government, are emerging as the leaders on vehicle electrification and automated vehicle deployments.

Why it matters: With the flexibility to experiment with infrastructure solutions and policy frameworks, states often serve as incubators for tech innovations. The governors who enable AV programs may well ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the AV space.

What's happening: California's leadership on EVs provides a valuable model, dating back to requirements for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) it rolled out in the 1990s.

  • In 2018, Jerry Brown signed an executive order calling for $2.5 billion in EV–related investments, and convened the Global Climate Action Summit to secure commitments based on the Paris climate goals.
  • California’s EVs alone accounted for 46.8% of U.S. sales in 2018, and 10 other states have now adopted the ZEV mandate, which requires that a percentage of vehicles produced for sale in that state be ZEVs.

On the AV front, 20 states currently allow testing or deploying of autonomous vehicles, and a decision in Utah is pending.

  • Massachusetts established its Commission on the Future of Transportation in early 2018 to plan for changing demographics, climate disruption, and increased electrification and automation.
  • Rhode Island and Ohio have taken steps to integrate AVs into holistic solutions to state infrastructure challenges, like creating transportation equity and reducing congestion.

Between the lines: Governors are eager to be seen as champions of technologies that could accelerate productivity and improve quality of life. If their states are seen as early adopters, it could help to attract entrepreneurs and talented members of the workforce and academia.

Yes, but: Being out front can have risks as well. After the Uber fatality in Arizona, both the governor and the state are facing a $10 million claim for "fail[ing] to make roadways safe" by allowing AV testing.

The bottom line: If governors continue to make their states friendly to AV development, it will lead to an overall favorable environment in the U.S. for developing the technology.

Colleen Quinn is a policy adviser and president of EMobility Advisors. She served on the Massachusetts Commission on the Future of Transportation, appointed by Governor Charles Baker.

Go deeper

Trump's opportunity to use Bernie as an economic scapegoat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Zach Gibson/Stringer, The Washington Post/Getty Contributor

Bernie Sanders is poised to become an economic scapegoat for both the White House and Corporate America, assuming that Sanders comes through Super Tuesday unscathed.

The big picture: If the U.S. economy remains strong, President Trump and CEOs will claim credit (as they've been doing for three years). If it turns sour, they'll blame Bernie (even though it's a largely baseless charge).

Why big banks are breaking up with some fossil fuels

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

JPMorgan Chase is the latest financial giant to unveil new climate commitments, and like its peers, it is hard to disentangle how much is motivated by pressure, conscience or making a virtue of necessity.

Why it matters: The move comes as grassroots and shareholder activists are targeting the financial sector's fossil energy finance, especially amid federal inaction on climate.

Trump acknowledges lists of disloyal government officials to oust

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Monday acknowledged the existence of assembled lists of government officials that his administration plans to oust and replace with trusted pro-Trump people, which were first reported by Axios' Jonathan Swan.

What he's saying: “I don’t think it's a big problem. I don’t think it's very many people,” Trump said during a press conference in India, adding he wants “people who are good for the country, loyal to the country.”