Snyder announces ‘Planet M’ mobility campaign

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Michigan is launching a “Planet M” campaign that aims to keep the state at the forefront of emerging automotive and mobility solutions.

The initiative is designed to leverage the state’s automotive industry and be a consortium to support the development of mobility innovations in the Great Lakes State, according to Gov. Rick Snyder.

“We’re proud to be the center of the automotive industry in the world, we’ve seen tremendous growth and success with it for decades and decades,” Snyder said Wednesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference. “It’s on a high point for today but we need a plan for the future.

“And there will be this transition from the automobile industry to the mobility industry.”

Snyder said Planet M isn’t just about self-driving vehicles, it’s about making Michigan roadways safer and more efficient.

The campaign was launched during the conference where Snyder and regional leaders are discussing the convergence of auto and technology and its impact on Michigan’s economy. Mobility is a major topic of discussion at this year’s gathering of business leaders and public officials on Mackinac Island.

Planet M is a consortium representing the public sector, private sector, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. While not a formal organization, some of the early partners working to advance Michigan’s image and mobility attractiveness include partners at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Department of Transportation, Business Leaders for Michigan, MichAuto and University Research Corridor.

“Pulling this all together is a very, very unique and unusual partnership,” said Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle, calling Planet M a “common umbrella” to promote the state’s mobility solutions. “Frankly this is about economic development as well and understanding that we can leverage these great assets that we have.”

The announcement comes a week after sweeping legislation was introduced in the state Senate that aims to make Michigan the nation’s leader in autonomous vehicle testing by allowing manufacturers to produce and sell self-driving cars here and clearing the way for their use on state roadways.

Planet M’s tagline is “Michigan. Where big ideas in mobility are born.”

More than half of the world’s population live in towns and cities, and by 2040, researchers project that two out of three people will live in urban environments, according to the state.

Brian David Johnson, futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination and former futurist for Intel Corp., said so-called “smart cities” will be on a “meaningful rise” by 2025.

“All regions will need to compete,” he said Wednesday at the conference. “The city has become a platform, and that platform needs to be ready. ... We are moving into the real age of the internet of things.”

By 2017, Michigan will be home to two permanent and purpose-built autonomous vehicle testing sites: Mcity, a 32-acre site that opened in 2015, simulates urban and suburban environments. The American Center for Mobility, a 335-acre site at the former Willow Run location, will provide additional testing and validation resources for the industry including higher speeds and interaction with rail and flight.

Last year during the Mackinac Policy Conference, the Michigan Mobility Initiative was announced. Led by a coalition of essential statewide business, automotive and university groups, the goal of the initiative is to strengthen, protect and promote the state’s global leadership in high-tech research and development into self-driving cars, connected vehicles, new fuel technologies and other important innovations.

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