Florida is ‘uniquely positioned’ to be a global leader in the mobility revolution

autonomous vehicles
The Sunshine State has the laws, weather, population and geography for success.

Florida Chamber Foundation’s Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit on Wednesday brought together one of the leading lawmakers in emerging tech and the head of one of the top mobility companies to talk about the future of transportation in the Sunshine State.

According to Sen. Jeff Brandes and CoMotion CEO John Rossant, remaining on the cutting edge of mobility tech will be important as the world will go through a transportation revolution over the coming years.

“There’s really three global trends that are revolutionizing the transportation space and you’ll see play out over the next couple of decades: the world is getting more shared, it’s getting more electric and it’s getting more automated,” Brandes said.

“The biggest shift you and I will see over the next decade is the shift to electrification. Electric vehicles are less than half of a percent of the vehicles on Florida’s roads today. I fully expect them to be between 15 and 25% of all new cars sold in America — especially in Florida — in 2030. Also, the other shift we’re seeing is the shift toward delivery, and the global supply chain is really trying to figure out this last mile of delivery.”

Brandes said because of Florida’s laws, weather and population it is “uniquely situated” to take advantage of emerging tech, low electricity prices and a lack of complicating weather factors such as snow to make the move to Florida easy for mobility companies.

Rossant echoed Brandes’ assessment, saying Florida’s stature in the mobility sector has been rising over the past decade.

The keys to success for any would-be mobility mecca are “a government that understands technology, that has a vision, that can talk to business, that is pro-business.” Florida has that while California, where Rossant is based, is “not a very pro-business state” despite having a “critical mass” with population size and tech companies.

“It’s so refreshing to see policymakers like [Brandes] who truly understand the tech environment and what’s needed in terms of a legislative framework,” he said.

Rossant said Florida’s geography is another factor mobility companies consider when looking for a place to set up shop.

“What’s so attractive for us and I think a lot of global mobility players is that fact that you are close to Europe — it’s not that far, it’s a flight, it’s a lot closer than California — and certainly close to Latin America. One of the reasons we’re so interested in Florida is that it is in so many ways a gateway to Latin America,” he said.

Rossant said the proximity has become more important in recent years because of the “tremendous amount” of innovation happening in Latin American cities, such as Bogota, Sao Paolo and Lima.

Another geographic advantage is the state’s topography. Since Florida is relatively flat, it is easier to construct infrastructure. He said easy access to the ocean and airports also position Florida to become one of the major players in the urban air mobility sector, which is just starting to take off.

“It’s such an exciting geography and I think that, clearly, the best is yet to come,” Rossant said.

Asked what kind of reaction Rossant’s company is getting in Florida, Rossant said that ahead of the launch of CoMotion Miami, an annual conference in the spring, he thought there would be a lot of interest, but attracting people outside of Florida “would be a stretch.” The company was expecting the conference — held virtually this year — to draw in about 500 people.

“We were at four times that. We were dumbfounded by the level of interest, literally from around the world,” he said, adding that companies across the country and globe have since reached out about getting involved in Florida’s mobility market.

To keep Florida on an upward trajectory in the mobility sector moving forward, Brandes said the state needs to be “proactive” in engaging with mobility companies by creating “transportation champions” that have “bigger, bolder visions” for the state.

“The next twenty years will be like the 1900s when we went from the horse and buggy to the Model T,” he said.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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