Source: Times Free Press | Mike Pare | August 24, 2017

Facility seeking funds for project, more collaborations with EPB, businesses.

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Thomas Zacharia, ORNL director, speaks to entrepreneurs and others on Aug. 23, 2017, during Zacharia’s visit to the Innovation District at the Edney Building in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Photo by Erin O. Smith)

“We see ORNL as not just a national lab … but as a regional force.” —  Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director, Dr. Thomas Zacharia

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new director said Wednesday the lab is considering testing in Chattanooga related to autonomous driving and long-haul trucking.

Also, lab chief Dr. Thomas Zacharia said during a visit to the city’s Innovation District that a Chattanooga office set up last year “absolutely” will remain in place as the lab tries to forge new partnerships with EPB, businesses and others.

“We see ORNL as not just a national lab but as a regional force,” he said. “We really want to make sure we play that role working with Chattanooga.”

Zacharia, a lab veteran who became its director July 1, said the laboratory is looking for funds to help finance the long-haul trucking testing that could take place on a test track already in place off Amnicola Highway.

“One key area we believe autonomy will be a true disruptor is autonomous long-haul driving,” he told a group of business people and others at the Edney Innovation Center.

Chattanooga already is a trucking and logistics hub, sporting two of the nation’s biggest long-hauling trucking companies in Covenant Transportation Group and U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Also, domestic freight scheduling business Access America grew rapidly in Chattanooga, topping $500 million in sales, before merging first with Coyote Logistics and then United Parcel Service.

And recently, a new ranking of America’s fastest-growing small businesses in Inc. magazine showed Chattanooga is continuing to birth some of the country’s most promising logistics companies.

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