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Column: Mobility takes the front seat

By Carla Bailo
Michigan has two of the leading permanent mobility proving grounds, MCity and the American Center for Mobility, Bailo writes.

While Michigan’s leaders meet on Mackinac Island this week for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference 2018, they will discuss, among other things, the convergence of multiple technologies and business models impacting the automotive industry today. We see it with more integration within our research groups at the Center for Automotive Research and in the automotive ecosystem of automated, connected, electrified and shared mobility.

Mobility, the movement of people and goods from place to place, job to job, or one social level to another is at the center of this discussion as Michigan positions itself as the Mobility State. Lawmakers and industry insiders will define the policy and regulatory framework that will pave the way forward for mobility and break down barriers to ensure success.

As the North American hub of the automotive industry, Michigan is home to many major automakers and suppliers, the front-runners in mobility development. Michigan has the largest allocation of freeway and surface street Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology in the United States, and is currently constructing 120 miles of technology-enabled “smart corridors.” In addition, Michigan has two of the leading permanent mobility proving grounds, MCity and the American Center for Mobility (ACM), and our colleges and universities offer over 200 courses related to smart mobility. Michigan is the natural trailblazer as The Mobility State. Development of smart mobility in Michigan will lead to economic development, talent growth and retention, and will produce the next generation of thought leaders.

The rise of innovative mobility services, such as ride-hailing and carsharing, is part of a mobility movement, a long-term gradual evolution of transportation preferences toward on-demand shared mobility and a multimodal system that is less car-centric. These services represent an opportunity for the automotive industry to develop new services, new vehicle concepts, new functionalities, new ownership and business models, and new partnerships. The deployment of automated vehicles (AV) promises increased safety and mobility and will have profound implications not only for people’s transportation choices and behavior but also for all players in the automotive sector.

As a nation, not just as a state, we need to come together to generate holistic policies, perhaps even on a global level. Michigan is positioned to spearhead the research necessary to generate the policies that will satisfy both the regulators and the automakers (mobility companies). Michigan holds the most patents related to navigation and smart mobility in the nation. Michigan has the most structured public-private governance for CAV technology thanks to two groups: the Michigan CAV Working Group, created in 2010 as a forum for dialogue, and the Council on Future Mobility, created in 2016 to provide policy recommendations, but too much bureaucracy and red tape could derail development. Without strong thought leadership, government disagreements and a change in governor coupled with a potential lack of collaboration amongst the OEM’s and suppliers could impede the mobility movement in Michigan.

Becoming the Mobility State will require the triple helix of collaboration — industry, government, and academia. One party cannot do this alone. Government leaders need to work hand-in-hand with all parties to develop appropriate policies and regulations. This collaboration will foster an ecosystem of understanding that allows all involved to comprehend the technologies and limitations and to recognize and even accelerate technological development. The policies we create must lay the foundation today and will require modification on an ongoing basis to keep pace with tomorrow. Industry must cooperate with government and with support from academia to solve the complex algorithms needed to integrate advanced mobility into today’s infrastructure.

The mobility movement offers all of us tremendous opportunity to improve people’s lives. Michigan is positioned to lead this movement as the Mobility State, providing guidance and direction to the rest of the world.

Carla Bailo is the president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research.