Tag Archives: Mobility

Thriving on Innovation

Reigning in manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and overall innovation is Pure Michigan.

For the past two years, I’ve had the benefit of project managing stories for Michigan Economic Development Corp. that showcase the innovative, collaborative work being done throughout the state. In doing so, I worked with two marketing companies and several freelance writers.

Michigan has the highest ratio of research spending to venture capital investment in the nation. For every $1 invested in VC in the state, $149 is invested in research.

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,  Michigan is at the epicenter of mobility.

The state leads the nation in producing 20 different commodities, including blueberries (30 million varieties and 3 million metric tons), cucumbers (for pickling), squash and tart cherries, and it ranks among the country’s biggest producers of apples (16 varieties and 1.8 billion pounds) and dairy products (1.2 billion gallons of milk).

In the process, I learned more than I could have imagine about the powerhouse organizations and amazing talent in the region.

Nearly 140,000 people work in Michigan’s IT and cybersecurity industry. And the state has multiple cyber ranges, where programmers can test and validate cybersecurity threats and responses without damaging their own systems, some of which are open to the private sector.

The top three global furniture leaders — Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc., Zeeland-based Herman Miller Inc. and Holland-based Haworth Inc. — are in West Michigan, and they shaping the future of furniture design by integrating materials science, virtual reality, and other advanced technologies into innovative products and solutions.

Learn more about why businesses are moving to and remaining in Michigan.

Yep! Michigan’s driving mobility

The U.S. auto industry employs 1.7 million people, produces nearly 8 million spinoff jobs and contributes about 3.5 percent to the gross domestic product yearly.

It’s no wonder, then, the United States economy relies heavily on automakers and that economists consistently call for the development of new industries — just in case.

“For many years, we said we need to diversify away from the auto industry,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives at the Detroit Regional Chamber. “I would argue that the greatest platform for diversification is the auto industry.”

Stevens is referring to the way Michigan’s established and startup businesses are disrupting the world through development of advanced mobility solutions. For example:

  • The automotive supply chain is evolving low-level vehicles to include connected and automated options to improve road safety.
  • State and local governments are installing smart infrastructure to improve the lives of communities and individuals alike.
  • Tech companies are creating collaborative robots and other internet-of-things technologies that make businesses run more efficiently.

Take Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., for instance. Last year, GM announced it would equip vehicle-to-vehicle (v2v) communications in the Cadillac CTS. And Ford recently said it would phase out sales of sedans in North America and accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV).

In the spirit of collaboration, PlanetM partnered with Crain Content Studio, the custom publishing division of Crain’s Detroit Business, to discuss with leading mobility thought leaders how Michigan is staying ahead of the competition. This roundtable discussion about the mobility industry was held April 16, 2018.

Participants:

  • Komal Doshi, Ann Arbor SPARK
  • Ami Dotan, Karamba Security
  • Paul Fleck, Dataspeed Inc.
  • Soraya Kim, American Center for Mobility
  • Carrie Morton, Mcity
  • Trevor Pawl, PlanetM
  • Kirk Steudle, Michigan Department of Transportation
  • Glenn Stevens, Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Richard Wallace, Center for Automotive Research

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — such as Ford and GM — and tier 1 auto suppliers aren’t evolving their brands alone. They are working alongside startups, local and state governments, academia and even former competitors to increase driver, pedestrian, bicyclist and aerial safety; generate equity; grow talent and jobs; and build smart cities for what futurists predict will be a highly automated, resource-scare future.

“We’re all collaborating,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM. A division of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., PlanetM connects resources and opportunities for its consortium of members in the Michigan mobility ecosystem. Made up of private industry, government and institutions of higher learning, participants in PlanetM share the common goal of leading the development of smart solutions that will change the way people and goods are transported across all modes of transportation.

Winning the mobility race

Leadership from state government has been fundamental to Michigan’s ability to remain competitive as startups and so-called “big-tech” companies attempt to build cars they can pair with their technology.

“People in California are our biggest competitor,” said Paul Fleck, founder and CEO of Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills-based startup that builds autonomous test platforms and develops collaborative robots for plant use. “But they trivialize what it takes to build cars or to make money off cars.”

Some companies are starting to understand, countered Richard Wallace, director of Transportation Systems Analysis at the Center for Automotive Research.

Wallace said Michigan OEMs and tier 1s are reemerging as leaders. “Maybe Waymo (the autonomous-vehicle development arm of Google) is up there with them. But building a whole car that includes the automation?”

While an app may have 50,000 lines of code and a fighter jet upwards of 7 million, land-based vehicles like the Ford GT contain 10 million lines of code. Stevens said this is just one proof point that Michigan was leading in transportation-related mobility technology five years ago and is still leading today.

“The competition is just more intense,” he said. “You have Detroit, but you also have Stuttgart, Shanghai and Seoul and every place on the globe that wants to be the global center for mobility. But we set a blueprint for connected infrastructure some years ago.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder meets monthly with mobility-based assets, associations and strategic partners, Pawl said. As a result, he added, “We all know each other’s bottlenecks and opportunities and help each other all along the way.”

And, while other states gather task forces, none have the capabilities and caliber of participants of the Council on Future Mobility, said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

The 21-person Council, launched in 2016, counts representatives from the state, OEMs, tier 1 suppliers, insurance and even a disability advocate among its participants.

“(The Council is) focusing on liability issues, insurance issues, cybersecurity issues, talent issues and then some pilot projects,” said Steudle.

One such project: high-definition map upgrades. Because accurate maps are necessary for AVs to operate safely, the Council organized a public-private partnership that allows public vehicles equipped with privately developed sensors to gather road data for R&D. According to the Council’s 2018 annual report, Michigan would be the only state with such a map database.

Major corporations aren’t the only ones working with the state representatives.

Cybersecurity startup Karamba Security came about to help minimize the effect of ransomware on the auto industry.

“People expected me to go out to Silicon Valley or Portland or Seattle or Boston,” said Ami Dotan, CEO and co-founder of Karamba, which also has offices in Israel and Japan. Dotan ultimately located his U.S. office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., because, he said, Michigan “is where the action is.”

In Michigan, he is able to meet regularly with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.

“I don’t think there is one other place in the U.S. where (support) goes all the way from the governor and legislators down to the research companies, centers and testing grounds. I don’t think if I were based in Silicon Valley that would happen.”

Coordination and collaboration

The lack of cohesiveness in other tech communities is evident, said Dotan. He said companies like Apple, Uber and Tesla all are doing their own thing, but Michigan companies succeed because of cooperation and support.

“If you look at Auto ISAC (Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center), of which we became members, everybody cooperates,” Dotan said. “You don’t need to disclose company secrets in order to cooperate.”

Cooperation drives a feeling of acceptance, attracts companies to Michigan and helps them grow, said Komal Doshi, director of Mobility Programs at Ann Arbor SPARK, a SmartZone-funded business incubator.

She said it’s important to look at how public and private sectors, startups and OEMs are engaged to work as equal partners and create a kind of “living lab.” “That opportunity is really rich here just because all the players are well-connected,” Doshi added.

DON’T CALL IT ‘DRIVERLESS’

Richard Wallace, director of Transportation Systems Analysis at the Center for Automotive Research, argued there’s a driver in each level of vehicle automation. “A fully automated vehicle is not a self-driving vehicle. It’s driven by a computer, a computer that uses artificial intelligence,” he said.

 

The six levels of automation are:

 

 

0 – No Automation: Driver performs all tasks.

1 – Driver Assistance: Some in-vehicle driving-assist features, such as braking assistance.

2 – Partial Automation: Vehicle has some automated functions, such as acceleration and steering. Drivers perform most functions.

3 – Conditional Automation: Vehicle has environment-monitoring sensors and some automated functions. Drivers must be able take control.

4 – High Automation: Sensor-equipped vehicle capable of steering, braking, accelerating and determining when to change lanes and turn under certain conditions. Driver has the option of controlling the vehicle.

5 – Full Automation: Sensor-equipped vehicle capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions.

Last fall, PlanetM and the Detroit Regional Chamber established the PlanetM Landing Zone, a 65-desk co-working space in the heart of downtown Detroit for startups and larger companies to benefit from automated, shared and electronic vehicle business development and resources.

“PlanetM has created a home team that brings all of us together in such a unique way. We don’t see that anywhere else across the country. No other state is as coordinated as we are. And that has been really beneficial,” said Carrie Morton, deputy director of Mcity, a proving ground for testing connected and automated vehicles and technology on the campus of University of Michigan.

PlanetM connected Mcity with startup Dataspeed, a company that is helping the test facility improve not only the safety of technology being developed and tested on site but also in protecting the technology itself.

“Leveraging that platform …, we can test faster, safer and cheaper,” Morton said. “These vehicles with all of their prototype sensors, they’re very expensive. So, we’re able to provide an opportunity for them to come and either test their sensors or test their artificial intelligence capabilities on that platform. It’s also allowed us to develop … augmented reality testing, which means we can test our vehicle in and amongst dozens, if not hundreds, of virtual reality vehicles reacting to each other in real time.

“But it’s going to take time, again, to really understand how we prove and validate that these technologies are safe or safer than with human drivers,” she added. “And that’s where we like to work with our colleagues at American Center for Mobility (ACM).”

ACM, a product development site located on a 500-acre former World War II bomber plant, is one of 10 federally designated proving grounds for developing and testing autonomous vehicles. It has a 2.5-mile highway speed loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts, said ACM Chief Innovation Officer Soraya Kim.

ACM held its soft launch for testing in December with its grand opening in April. Supporting partners include Visteon Corp., Toyota Research, Hyundai America Technical Center Inc., Ford Motor Co. and AT&T. ACM announced a non-automotive cohort in April.

“We now have Microsoft as our latest partner. So, it is tech companies that are starting to partner with us, so that we can say, ‘Hey, it’s not just GM or Ford,’” she said. “It’s also Microsoft, it’s Karamba. So, we can frame a little more differently that high-tech message.”

With help from Microsoft, ACM plans to design a cloud-based platform to collect, store and analyze data from tests held there.

Safety a priority

More people are recognizing the need for testing and validation sites such as Mcity and ACM after three recent, highly publicized autonomous vehicle crashes.

A driver of an autonomous Tesla died last summer in Florida and another in March in California. Also in March, an autonomous Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. All three drivers were using autopilot driver-assistance systems in Level 2 vehicles.

“Unfortunately, we have to take the good side of a bad thing,” said Dotan. “The technology allows us to correct and improve and reduce those unfortunate cases. (Automobiles have) the most complex transportation platform existing, more than an airplane. (But this) is like a black box thing. We find something was wrong, either with the pilots or with the equipment, and we correct it.”

More than 37,000 people died in car crashes across the country last year; that’s more than 100 people a day. Of those 100, about 15 a day were pedestrians.

Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) can help eliminate or at least reduce those figures, Pawl said. “If there were more V2I at that intersection in Arizona, maybe some DRSC (dedicated short-range communications) technology could have prevented the crash.”

Steudle agreed. He said MDOT announced in 2014 it would deploy technology in intersections along 125 miles of roadways. The state has 155 roadside units up in Southeast Michigan, Ann Arbor and Lansing. “By the end of this year, we will be at 350 miles,” he said, adding, “by the end of next year, we’ll have 550 miles.”

Mobility to support equity

In society, transportation is one of the biggest costs after housing.

Employees are not able to move up in their careers because they can’t get to work. Children are consistently absent because they can’t get to school. Patients can’t receive much-needed healthcare treatment because they can’t get to their appointments.

Accordingly, experts say the mobility technology being developed and piloted should not just be about competition and getting from point A to point B, but it should bridge gaps in society and generate equity.

Mobility is about democratization, said Fleck. It’s about giving people choices they may not have had in the past and ways to attain mobility so they can be viable and add to their quality of life.

Doshi said current technology is enabling the development of shuttles that can take optimized routes and pick up multiple people. “That’s what Mobility as a Service (MAAS) is all about.”

WHAT’S NEW IN MOBILITY

 

Numerous mobility-related projects launched in Michigan in the past year and many others are underway. Here’s a snapshot of this cutting edge technology.

Mcity launched an autonomous shuttle research project at UM this spring that is studying how passengers react to the technology and track ridership and usage patterns to guide researchers on ways to create safer, more efficient vehicles. The pilot is similar to the autonomous shuttle pilot May Mobility is doing with real estate company Bedrock in downtown Detroit. France-headquartered NAVYA manufactured the two Level 4 Mcity shuttles.

While MAAS is available to others through ride- and bike-sharing and car-hailing services, Wallace said it isn’t yet available in lower-income communities like Detroit where one-third of residents don’t have internet.

“If Detroiters can’t tap into it because they lack a smartphone or Comcast … then, really, we’ve created a two-tier Detroit,” he said.

Similarly, Morton said it’s important to ensure people with physical limitations aren’t left behind.

To be successful, Steudle said MAAS has to be integrated into transit services already available.

In Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Association late last year put out a request for proposals for two mobility pilot transportation services “to understand barriers to bus riders using a ride-hailing service” and “to better understand the impact that mobility plays in participants of a (workforce) training program.”

Addressing the talent gap

Vehicles are software platforms on wheels. But leading in that space will depend on whether we have an ecosystem that’s fed by talent and business incubators, said Stevens.

In previous decades, he said, the top positions to fill at an automaker or supplier were mechanical and electrical engineers. Today, companies need connected systems and software engineers, coders and application developers.

“That’s why we’re involved in immigration reform, bringing veterans back into the workforce and the retraining and reskilling of people,” said Stevens.

This summer Ann Arbor SPARK plans to hold Tech Trek, where tech companies show off their latest innovations to high schoolers and undergrads.

In February, ACM held a career exploration day for veterans in the morning and students in the afternoon and they matched each prospective employee with one of 23 industry representatives, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Kim.

Yet, Kim said ACM doesn’t want to wait for kids to reach college to begin recruiting.

“The talent pipeline really starts to dwindle at junior high school,” she said. By middle school, she said, kids begin to lose interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

“So, we are working with different organizations to try to offer maybe a day during the summer for STEM camps. We are also, as part of our academic consortium, exploring K-12 grant-funding opportunities, so we can have that continuous pipeline,” she said.

Even with talent, however, Michigan needs more aggregators, or business accelerators like TechStars Mobility or the incubators out of Michigan’s 17 SmartZones, according to leaders in the mobility landscape.

ACM intends to help fill that gap. Kim said ACM is leading a trip around the world to identify hubs of innovation and new technologies. The idea is that these organizations would come to ACM.

“I think we’ll be able to be that showcase for prospective funders and partners and customers. Eventually when our technology park is built out, we will have an incubator accelerator,” she said.

This story was sponsored by PlanetM.com.

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.

Read the full story here: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20180117/custom24/649911/how-michigans-mobility-revolution-will-save-lives

How Michigan is winning the race in connected technology

Do more in less time. Arrive at destinations quicker and safer. Improve work-life balance. These wants have fueled thousands of years of invention and progress, including the advent of the horse-drawn carriage, automobile, rocket ship and Internet.

Today’s mobility innovations have experts predicting solutions with near-future technology previously seen only in science fiction. Consider:

  • Safer roads that adjust based on vehicle communications and traffic patterns, dramatically reducing the number of auto-related fatalities;
  • Pods that deliver a person from one destination to another; and
  • Integrated technologies that would predict when a household will run out of certain supplies and replenish them before homeowners even know they’re needed.

“We are seeing the realization of artificial intelligence taking over tasks that are really human driven. That’s going to be pushed forward at the leading edge by the automotive industry,” said John Verboncoeur, associate dean for research at Michigan State University. “We’re going to see it in your kitchen and in your laundry room and in every stage of your life.”

What happens when 15 government, business and academic leaders come together in one room to talk car-sharing and connectivity? A powerful snapshot of the state of mobility in Michigan. Planet M, a brand created by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and leading automotive thought leaders to position the state as the epicenter for mobility, and Crain Content Studio, the custom publishing division of Crain’s Detroit Business, gathered these experts for a roundtable discussion at Crain Communications in Detroit on April 28, 2017. Crain’s Publisher Ron Fournier moderated the conversation.

Roundtable participants:

  • Anya Babbitt
  • William Buller
  • Laurel Champion
  • Mark de la Vergne
  • Carrie Morton
  • Jessica Robinson
  • Ted Serbinski
  • Colin Goldsmith
  • Craig Hoff
  • Kevin Kerrigan
  • Peter Kosak
  • Kirk Steudle
  • Nicole Stevenson
  • Glenn Stevens
  • John Verboncoeur
Sponsored by Planet M and originally published on Crain's Detroit.

IHS Automotive, an online source for engineers, estimates that between now and 2035, nearly 76 million vehicles with some level of autonomy will be sold globally. Michigan accounts for nearly $60 billion of the $3 trillion global auto industry. Yet, experts say if approached correctly, the state, also known for its mounting number of high-tech hubs, may find itself at the epicenter of a $10 trillion mobility industry.

Keeping this potential at the forefront, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., through Planet M, is supporting various elements in mobility technology, such as robotics in manufacturing and other outgrowths of this artificial intelligence capability.

“The economic opportunity and necessity for Michigan to play in that personal mobility and shared-use economy is absolutely essential to our future,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto, an economic development initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The key to Michigan’s future success? Those in the mobility space must acquire an understanding of societal and legal ramifications, properly build upon Michigan’s automotive history to create a far-reaching mobility ecosystem and continue to grow the state’s highly skilled talent base. Moreover, experts agree collaboration is essential — not just between Michigan automotive and tech companies but with public and private entities inside and outside of the state.

Defining mobility

It’s easy to limit the definition of mobility to autonomous — self-driving and driverless — vehicles. But the word, and the industry, have far broader implications for businesses, humans, vehicles and other commodities and services.

Ted Serbinski, managing director at Techstars Mobility, a Detroit-based venture capital business incubator, puts it bluntly — and broadly: “Mobility is the movement of people and goods.”

In other words, major auto companies and suppliers can’t just manufacture a car and claim to play in the mobility space. Serbinski explained that the automotive industry needs to shift its focus from just building physical devices to, in some cases, changing business models to offer a variety of services.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, for instance, have been partnering with organizations to broaden services they provide customers.

TALENT THAT MAKES MOBILITY MOVE

Michigan is at an advantage to succeeding in the mobility industry based on the state’s proximity to OEMs, collective experience and strong educational institutions. Experts recognize continuing to grow Michigan’s talent pipeline is a crucial element.  Here’s what they had to say.

  • Ford has been developing electric bikes that, in conjunction with an Apple Watch app, provide bicyclists with weather or fitness data.
  • Ford also has Carr-E, a four-wheeled pedestrian-assisted device you can stand on and use to move around or that can carry packages and follow the transmitter you carry as you walk.
  • GM is developing predictive technology that tells a driver when his or her car needs maintenance before it breaks down.
  • GM also partnered with ride-sharing service Lyft to launch a car-sharing service, called Maven.

Peter Kosak, executive director for urban mobility at GM, said mobility is about access and options and leveraging technology — whether it’s app-based or autonomous.

“(But) if we don’t solve the problem of people wanting to commute together, we’ll continue to be crushed by morning and evening commutes. And if people don’t knock out the friction through psychology or technology then that problem isn’t going to be solved,” Kosak said.

The commute problem is one that’s driving Anya Babbitt, who moved her ride-sharing company, SPLT, from New York City to Detroit in 2015 to be part of Serbinski’s Techstars accelerator. SPLT is working with OEMs and municipalities to learn how it can complement other transportation options, such as van pools and bus lines. “For people to feel confident with other mobility options, we need to have an alignment of multiple services so that individuals can feel, for instance, that they can leave the car behind,” Babbitt said.

To Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of the MEDC’s automotive office, mobility means, simply, freedom.

“It’s something that allows us to look beyond where we are now and look for those opportunities,” Kerrigan said. Those opportunities could be in autonomous desks that tell users when they need to stand up and walk around. Or, they could be something larger.

Kirk Steudle, the state’s Director of Transportation, said he had a conversation last month about autonomous ships. “Thinking about that changes the whole business equation,” he said. Read more about those opportunities.

Test tracks and towns

Deploying safe, driverless vehicles is impossible without “infrastructure maturity, technology readiness and regulation,” reports Harvard Business Review in an analysis of the industry this spring.

Carrie Morton is confident such deployment is possible. Morton, deputy director of Mcity, a 23-acre mini community at the University of Michigan crafted for driverless car technology, said Michigan is positioned to research and test many of the collective questions that need to be answered before mobility technologies are fully implemented.

“It is a unique opportunity to learn a lot more than just about the technology, but about the challenges in deployment,” she said. “For instance: OK, now I want to put an autonomous vehicle on the road. How do I work with the Secretary of State to do that? How do I work with the U.S. Department of Transportation? What needs to be in place? I think we’re really starting to exercise the new (autonomous vehicle) laws.”

Because of bills passed late last year, Michigan should be able to operate autonomous ride-sharing services and sell driverless cars in the near future. The first step, though, is testing. While the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated 10 testing sites for self-driving vehicles, the largest deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology in the country resides in Michigan.

IMAGINE IF …

We asked participants to set a scene for the future of mobility.  Here’s how they imagine it will be.

In addition to Mcity, the state is home to the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, where Ford once built the B-24 bomber and GM manufactured transmissions.

Steudle said Michigan jumped in the waters of V2I technology when it was still an idea. “About three weeks after that bridge collapse (in Minnesota in 2007), we were talking about this thing called connected vehicles. So, we put a challenge out to our ITS team and said, ‘Let’s see if we can have the Mackinac Bridge instrumented (with communications technology) before the Labor Day Bridge Walk.’ That was three weeks later. It was temporary, but we did it,” he said.

The same communication mechanisms Michigan used then are what the state is using today in vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) and V2I, Steudle pointed out. Since 2007, Michigan has developed 155 roadside units spread across the state, most of them in Southeast Michigan. For some of it, the state worked in collaboration with the U.S. DOT and CAMP, a consortium of automakers, to do the research. The goal is to instrument 350 miles in Southeast Michigan alone.

To do this, he said, they asked a variety of questions: “Can we make this intersection talk to a car? Can we make the Ford and the GM talk together?”

Once the answer becomes yes — once cars automatically maintain safe distances from one another, alert drivers when they aren’t paying attention, notify them of pedestrians they may not see or warn them of slick road conditions — then experts say the technology will save lives.

“Roughly 1,021 people died on Michigan roads last year. One life is unacceptable. We have to reverse that. Ultimately this technology is about saving lives,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto.

According to Steudle and Morton, traffic fatalities could drop 90 percent when autonomous vehicles deploy on Michigan roads.

Understanding that mobility isn’t just about cars, Mcity created a tech lab where the entrepreneurial community can vet technologies in an environment they wouldn’t get anywhere else in the world. The environment includes all the players in the sector — insurance companies, auto OEMs and Tier 1’s — and allows the innovators to “play in the sandbox” and learn.

American Center for Mobility

Part of the test track at the American Center for Mobility.

“Nowhere else in the country do we have this capability, where you can start from the very beginning and graduate right through into your verification and validation environment where they can support the full ecosystem as we move toward putting these technologies into commercialization,” Morton said.

Mcity and ACM complement one another, said Laurel Champion, ACM’s COO. “We are able to provide the very early stages of research, and there’s the ability, by the end of this year, to come to our site and to be able to test and really work on product development.”

Autonomous vehicles and mobility aren’t just an auto manufacturer issue. William Buller said the military is also interested in the technology. Keweenaw Research Center, a research center supported by external corporate and governmental agency funding in Houghton, Mich., provides an unstructured environment, customizable with ice grooming machines to make the surface road-like for the military and automotive companies.

If that’s not enough, Kettering University in Flint is also putting in a 3-acre road course test track. “It’s designed to be a general-purpose facility, not a dedicated autonomous vehicle facility. But we have Tier 1 corporate partners that are down in Auburn Hills that go out in the parking lot to do tests. We’re 30 minutes up the road. We can certainly do better than a test in the parking lot,” said Craig Hoff, engineering professor and dean of the College of Engineering at Kettering University.

Kerrigan said that while the state is the epicenter of integration of vehicle technology and the proving of vehicle technology, he doesn’t think it’s smart to go it alone. He said collaborating with Silicon Valley is a necessity. “I think a lot of the IT companies in Silicon Valley are really realizing how difficult it is to build a vehicle and how difficult it is to get one on the road and keep it there and bring out the next model, and how much money it takes to do that.”

Nicole Stevenson, vice president for Flex, agreed. “Everybody has the same goals we’re working toward. It’s not really about Detroit vs. Silicon Valley or Detroit vs. Israel or other tech hubs. We’re all trying to work together and get the best for mobility and to solve the issues.”

Ensuring mobility benefits everyone

Industry leaders recognize mobility is about more than business competition and cool technology. It’s about creating access and equality.

Mark de la Vergne, the city of Detroit’s Chief Mobility Officer, noted that mobility technology, particularly when it comes to autonomous vehicles, poses a significant challenge to Detroit because its size likely will make it a complex environment with regards to testing and deployment and because different demographics and populations use technology differently.

“There are lots of things that we need to learn: How different populations use different types of services, different types of technologies,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in this city right now don’t have a phone or don’t have internet access. We’re looking at making sure this is not just something that works for young white kids who haven’t even graduated high school.

“It’s about engagement. If I go to the east side of this city and talk about autonomous vehicles, they’re just going to ask me why the bus isn’t coming. There’s a huge spectrum, and we can’t simply expect that we can drop new things into places, all sorts of places. This question isn’t just in the city. This is suburbs and rural also that are going to need to be figured out. These aren’t just technology solutions. There’s a huge social element.”

Jessica Robinson, director of City Solutions at Ford Motor Co., is working with communities across the country to help answer such questions. “The work that I do is directly with cities, and they very much want to see simplicity when this already complex technology, particularly when it comes to autonomy, comes to their cities.” Her goal is to help create solutions to potential barriers.

“As things evolve, there will be more opportunities to work together in pilot projects and how you as a city work on some problems of integrating mass transit, for example,” said Kosak. “I think one area that certainly everyone is working together on now is getting the right ground rules that make the environment conducive to progress.”

Ten years ago, personal mobility and shared-use economy were terms used only in labs and innovators’ garages. Today, economists are predicting spending in the $1.6 trillion range in the industry by 2020.

Kerrigan urged Michigan’s business leaders to stay in the lead of mobility technology.

Stevens concurred. “We are positioned, if we have the talent and if we build the ecosystem properly to have an economic opportunity and a societal opportunity and an opportunity to save lives. And frankly all of us are working on those things together.”

For more about mobility in Michigan, visit PlanetM.com.