AUSTIN (KXAN) — The man considered to be one of the biggest influences in the transportation world is in Austin this week. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk addressed a crowd Thursday at the 10th Annual Texas Transportation Forum. Musk, who has overseen product development and design for all of Tesla’s electric cars, also is the creative spark behind the development of rockets and spacecraft for SpaceX. Musk’s work embodies the idea of transformation, which is the theme of this year’s Texas Transportation Forum.
“The Forum has evolved into a world-class platform for transportation thought leadership over the past decade and we’re delighted to have Elon Musk be part of the conversation for the 10th Annual Texas Transportation Forum,” said Ted Houghton, Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
In November, Austinites struck down a $1 billion city bond for a new rail line and road improvements. However, Austin residents joined with other Texas voters to pass Proposition One for road funding. This measure will allow lawmakers to deposit money earned from oil and gas revenues into the State Highway Fund. University of Texas at Austin aerospace engineering professor, Todd Humphreys says the city’s traffic problems aren’t a question of money, it’s a question of what can we do, given that we won’t be able to keep up with the demand for more roads.
“Some of what we’ll be talking about in this forum is how we can help to deal with that problem maybe through technology instead of more asphalt. It’s about ride sharing, about autonomous cars, self driving cars and even being more productive while we are in the car. Maybe that allows us to be more patient as we are stuck in traffic,” Humphreys said.
Humphreys will be leading a panel about self driving cars or autonomous cars that will use technology to drive themselves and sync up to drivers cell phones. He doesn’t expect fully autonomous cars to be around for another 20 years, but says the transportation forum is a way to get the conversation started.
“Autonomous vehicles can offer us a way to offload the most boring part of the commute and make it productive again, so even if we can’t build new roads and alleviate the congestion immediately, maybe we can still make it more pleasant for people to drive,” Hunphreys said.
After Tesla’s Elon Musk speaks at the forum, he’ll head to the state capitol to talk about efforts to introduce legislation to allow U.S.-based manufactures of all-electric or all-battery powered cars to sell and service directly to Texas consumers.