There’s an elite class of world cities that stand apart from the rest. Cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, London, New York, and San Francisco, which drive the global economy and chart the course of human progress. There are also cities like Tel Aviv that punch above their weight when it comes to innovation, talent, and the ability and desire to shake things up a bit.
This was never clearer than this past week, when the city hosted the Seventh Annual EcoMotion conference. More than 4,000 attendees from across the world took part in the conference, including 1,000 senior executives from major global players including Renault-Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, LEAR, DAIMLER, and BOSCH, to name just a few.
The week kicked off with the launch of a new Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Innovation center in Tel Aviv, which is focused on autonomous driving, cyber security, and big data.
Israel – a country with no automotive industry, one ice skating rink, and where the closest thing to a subway system is Haifa’s “Carmelit” funicular – now hosts one of only three such Alliance Innovation centers in the world, joining Shanghai and Silicon Valley.
Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Alliance Executive Vice President said at the launch on Monday “with Israel as a global innovation hub, particularly with automotive technology, this new lab is a natural next step for us and will allow the Alliance to leverage the strengths of Israel’s startup ecosystem.”
The biggest headline of the week though came on Wednesday, when Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford opened the Ford Research Center in central Tel Aviv. In his remarks at the launch, Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, said that “the ecosystem of startups I’ve seen here is just remarkable” and stated that the research center will be “the lifeblood of what Ford will be in the future.”
Ford also visited the Karamba Security offices on Wednesday, where he was shown demos of our security products and met with our team of cybersecurity experts.
The EcoMotion Community is a combined initiative of the Israeli Innovation Institute, the Fuel Choices Initiative, and the Israeli Ministry of Economy. For the past several years it has been an opportunity for major industry players to see the most cutting-edge developments impacting the future of mobility.
The wider EcoMotion week 2019 included the Jefferies Mobility Tech Conference, held at the Herzliya Marina on Thursday. The conference hosted executives from major automobile manufacturers like General Motors and Toyota, as well as VCs and mobility tech companies from the US, Europe, Israel, and beyond.
Automated vehicles were at the center of the discussion on Thursday, with panelists debating how they believe the AV revolution will play out in the coming years.
Gil Golan, Israel Country Manager and Director for GM at Jefferies sounded an optimistic tone, saying that “I believe we don’t need any scientific breakthrough to get to level 4 or 5 (of autonomous vehicles) but we need flawless, meticulous execution to build these machines.”
Speaking of “The Great White Hope of Autonomy”, Storm Duncan, the Global Head of Mobility Technology and Co-Head of Technology M&A said that AV “is such an expensive game, it’s brought mortal enemies together.”
Panelists discussed not only automation for consumer and fleet vehicles, but also how it will play out for air and sea traffic as well. The overarching theme of the event was that we are on the verge of a technological revolution that will have a massive, windfall effect on industry and public life across the world in the coming decades.
This is part of the theme of Ecomotion week 2019, during which EcoMotion Executive Director Orli Dahan stated that smart transportation is nearing “its tipping point.”
Dahan also stated that “I am not a prophet and I don’t know when the autonomous vehicles will be implemented fully on the road, but I’m willing to commit to the fact that every autonomous and electric vehicle will have some kind of Israeli technology within.”
If the past week is any indication, this isn’t a stretch at all.