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Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Estimates City Will See Self-Driving Cars in Five Years

The mayor cited the Smart City Challenge as a reason for the growing interest and investments in autonomous technology in Ohio.

(TNS) -- DETROIT — Get used to the idea of self-driving cars because they could be on the streets of Columbus in five years, said Mayor Andrew Ginther.

He made the comment Monday during a panel discussion of mayors organized by Ford Motor Co. at the North American International Auto Show. Also participating were the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit.

The city leaders said self-driving cars could be a reality in five to seven years. Ginther added that he thinks it will be closer to five years in Columbus' case.

Interviewed after the panel, he pointed to the work that has been sparked by the Smart City Challenge, which Columbus won last year. This is generating investments in a variety of projects, including those related to autonomous vehicles, transit and electric vehicles.

One of those projects is the development of a self-driving vehicle system to move workers from the Linden neighborhood to jobs in nearby areas.

Elsewhere at the auto show, automakers spoke about their plans to develop self-driving vehicles, with testing taking place now and a larger rollout to come.

The topic is of vital interest to the mayors because it affects the basics of planning. For example, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he expects there to be less of a need for parking structures as vehicles are able to drop off workers in the city center and then drive to less-congested areas to park themselves.

The moderator, New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson, asked the mayors — all Democrats — how President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican, could affect issues in their cities.

"There are places where we will cooperate and places where we will stand our ground and confront," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

One of the points of disagreement is likely to be immigration, Emanuel said.

But the mayors spent more time talking about how they would work with Trump on issues rather than against him.

"Mayors are the least-partisan politicians," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "Most Democratic mayors in this county are dealing with Republican governors and Republican statehouses."

Ginther said that parts of Trump's agenda, including his plan to invest in city infrastructure, "could be a great opportunity."

The mayor said he hopes that the president-elect will "evolve" on some of his more divisive stances.

Atlanta's Reed expressed doubt about the likelihood of that kind of evolution. "I gotta get some of that Columbus air," he said with a laugh.

©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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