How Michigan’s mobility revolution will save lives

By 2035, drivers will be able to sit back in relative ease while 21 million autonomous vehicles safely navigate inclement weather and traffic commutes on their behalf.

Yet, connected and automated vehicles aren’t just cool or convenient: Industry leaders argue they one day will provide unprecedented levels of safety on roadways.

“Connectivity makes driving safer,” said Huei Peng, director of Mcity, a public-private initiative led by the University of Michigan that unites industry, government and academia to identify and solve challenges related to connected and automated vehicles.

“Motor vehicle crashes kill about 37,000 people every year in the U.S. and 1.2 million people globally every year,” said Peng. “If we use new technologies right, we can save lives.”

If the technology works as it should, Peng added, sensors or robot drivers (called guardians) would never get distracted, never get tired and never get road rage.

“The software may not be perfect; but potentially, it will improve every day,” Peng said. “If we can eliminate drunk, distracted and fatigued driving, we can potentially improve the roads.”

Indeed, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other experts say connected and automated vehicles will, in part, reduce 90 percent of vehicle crashes.

Mobility epicenter

Michigan — home to 66 of the top 100 North American auto suppliers, 16 OEMS and the largest deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) technology in the country — is at the epicenter of mobility.

Peng acknowledged Tesla, Apple and Google strive to be the epicenter and automakers need to leverage capability from other places, like Silicon Valley, to make vehicles more automated or autonomous. But he said Michigan — being the center of the automotive industry — plays a crucial role going forward.

Terence Rhoades, president of Mechanical Simulation Corp. in Ann Arbor, agreed. “In the Detroit area, in the course of one day, I could attend meetings at Ford, GM and Chrysler (FCA) and have no trouble pulling that off. There’s a tremendous advantage here with the resources and development capabilities,” he said.

Seventy-five percent of the auto industry’s R&D occurs in Michigan. And the state is home to several connected and automated vehicle test facilities, including Kettering University GM Mobility Research Center in Flint, The American Center for Mobility at Willow Run (ACM) in Ypsilanti and Mcity.

With ACM and Mcity only 10 miles apart, Rhoades said, “They are both going to be tremendous resources as this autonomous vehicle community continues to grow.”

Sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., This story was originally published on Crain National. Learn how Michigan is advancing mobility.

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