Jun 8, 2022 - Business

Transportation event draws industry veterans and visionaries to Bentonville

Cyrus Sigari, founder of UP.Summit, speaks Tuesday morning at the event at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

Bentonville is abuzz with an estimated 250 people in town for UP.Summit, an event geared toward the future of all things transportation, including aviation and autonomous vehicles.

Why it matters: Arkansas wants to be a global leader in the future of transportation. Hosting the summit with entrepreneurs and industry leaders joining from across the country and beyond serves as an indicator that there's some momentum.

Yes, and: The event — started in 2017 and hosted by UP.Partners, Steuart and Tom Walton, and Ross Perot Jr. — brings established companies like Zipline and Boeing into the same room as startups. It gives entrepreneurs a chance to present ideas to major industry players.

  • At the 2019 summit, attendees committed to invest more than $500 million in companies that presented at the event, according to a statement from UP organizers.

State of play: "We're already leading in many ways — in piloting autonomous vehicles, in drone delivery. That's not futuristic for us. That's happening right now," Gov. Asa Hutchinson told Axios.

Yes, but: That's not necessarily the reputation that Arkansas has outside the state. Hutchinson said events like UP.Summit that magnetize entrepreneurs and investors to the state, some for their first-ever trip, help change that perception.

Of note: Hutchinson established a council on future mobility earlier this year and told Axios he expects its findings, which should include recommendations on how to lift barriers to modern transportation, by the end of October. Some changes could be as simple as rewording laws that include "passenger" and "driver's side" that leave out autonomous vehicles.

  • Cyrus Sigari, founder of UP.Summit, chairs the council.

What's next: Hutchinson plans to sign an agreement later this month with Israel's innovation authority to share information and collaborate. The governor said it will broadly cover innovation and technology and won't be limited to transportation.

  • "They have technologies they want to market in the United States, and it could be beneficial to some of our existing companies here, so that exchange of information might be useful," he told Axios.

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