Why St. Charles County Will be Home of the Driverless Car

by Greg Prestemon

How productive is a drive from St. Charles to Kansas City?

If your definition of productive includes the number of coffees bought and the amount of country music listened to (and, depending on how you view life, those can be perfectly reasonable measures of productivity), then the answer is “very productive.”

However, if your definition of “productive” includes the amount of time you can spend focusing on the launch of your next product, the answer is “probably not that productive.”

That could change with the development and widespread adoption of the self-driving automobile.

A vehicle piloted by artificial intelligence could allow the rapidly growing number of St. Charles County entrepreneurs to spend a little more of their time on the road applying their mental capacity to more creative activities, while the automobile attended to the more mundane task of driving.

And while many of us are familiar with Tesla’s self-driving car (familiar as in we have heard that it exists, not familiar as in we can afford it) and possibly Google’s research in self-driving cars, many don’t know that every major automobile manufacturer recognizes the inevitability of the self-driving car, and they are investing significant resources in developing the technology.

What does that mean for consumers?

Self-driving technology will become cheaper and more available, really quickly.

Tesla’s self-driving car is like a DVD player in 1996: hard to find and pretty expensive. Ford’s self-driving cars will be like a DVD player in 2003: cheaper, and found in a lot more homes.

What does it mean for the St. Charles County economy?

According to a study commissioned by the St. Charles County EDC Business & Community Partners and conducted by research and consulting firm MarksNelson, a potential economic boom.

Josh Beck, EDFP and Partner for the Location Strategies team at the firm, drafted a report that identified industries the county should target for future economic growth. The research demonstrated that two of the strongest sectors in the county are the automotive industry and the information technology industry.

That should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the exciting things that have happened in the county in recent years. The General Motors plant in Wentzville, the Missouri Technology Park, the incubator at the EDC, and new entries like OPO Startups all demonstrate that St. Charles County is perfectly situated to be the nexus of the self-driving automobile.

Why?

Because self-driving automobile technology is created by the convergence of automotive manufacturers and small and mid-sized technology firms led by innovative, creative entrepreneurs.

We have all that, right here in St. Charles County.

We have the tools to build one of the world’s most exciting technologies. We just have to put them to use.

And how will that happen?

It will require a team effort. It will require the cooperation and dedication of stakeholders—both public and private—throughout the county.

But we’ve been here before.

The Missouri Technology Park, the EDC Incubator, OPO Startups, and the thousands of businesses that make St. Charles County such a vibrant place were all once just a vision. People, including entrepreneurs and the talented leaders in city and county government, came together to make those visions a reality.

We’ve done it more than once.

And we can do it again.

Greg Prestemon is President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners.

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