Wayne State launches program on self-driving technology

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Wayne State University's recently acquired Industry Innovation Center in TechTown will provide laboratory and demonstration space to the Center for Advanced Mobility, a program of the engineering college and the Michigan Mobility Institute to support future automotive industry talent.

Wayne State University engineering students this fall can enroll in classes on autonomous driving and mobility fundamentals.

The Center for Advanced Mobility is a product of the university's college of engineering and the Michigan Mobility Institute, an entity of the Detroit Mobility Lab focused on developing the talent pool for the future of the automotive industry, the organizations said this week. Their advanced mobility curriculum seeks to help position Detroit as the leader for business in the evolving automotive sector.

"We are building what will be, I believe, a leading global center for the future of mobility, and we're doing this in Detroit," said Chris Thomas, president of the Detroit Mobility Lab. "With this center, we are being very forceful in developing the talent we are going to need to compete globally in the future of mobility."

The new center will combine existing programs with new curriculum developed from industry studies and conversations with startups and incumbent companies. It will offer a broad set of graduate degrees, including a Master of Mobility, and certificates focused on self-driving technology, connectivity, smart infrastructure and electrification. Undergraduates will have the opportunity to take some classes, as well. The university also expects to offer a new Master of Science in Robotics degree starting in fall 2020.

The Center for Advanced Mobility will use laboratory and demonstration space in Wayne State's 45,000-square-foot Industry Innovation Center in the TechTown neighborhood that the university acquired last year. It also will support a speaker series expected to kick off in the fall.

Wayne State in recent years has hired several faculty members with expertise in this area that will support the new curriculum. The center also will rely on support from private-sector partners to provide in-kind donations, equipment, internships and other support.

The center's launch comes as Ford Motor Co. expects to complete 7,000 white-collar layoffs this month around the world. General Motors Co., likewise, began laying off 4,250 salaries workers earlier this year.

"The automakers are changing their direction, becoming technology companies, mobility companies," said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the Wayne State College of Engineering. "The workforce they are looking laying off could benefit from this new education. Adding some of the things we know will make a really strong graduate from the program."