New technologies are disrupting the mobility space. How we get from Point A to Point B tomorrow is going to be very different from how we get there today. Michigan is at the epicenter of this technology-driven revolution.

Michigan's one-of-a-kind support system for mobility-related businesses attracts great minds from all over the world. These creators, together with the entities that support them, drive mobility forward.    

A global epicenter for mobility disruption

Just as the internet changed how information is shared, the future of mobility will transform more than just transportation--it will transform every aspect of physical movement across all industries, believes Ted Serbinski, managing director of Techstars Detroit, a mentorship-driven accelerator program for mobility-related companies. 

Techstars Detroit invests in founders from all over the world. For example, program alum, Derq, is an MIT spin-off with roots in Dubai. Derq's technologies are designed to predict and prevent accidents by deploying patented artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms on roadside sensors to predict the movement of vehicles and pedestrians. It then uses active safety and communications technologies to warn drivers of impending hazards.

Through Techstars, Derq met PlanetM--a Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) initiative to foster, retain, and grow the mobility sector and position Michigan as the global epicenter for future transportation. PlanetM awarded Derq a startup grant to test its technologies, which are now in use in Michigan and Dubai. Derq's growth epitomizes how Michigan is uniquely positioned to breed mobility success stories.

Serbinski says Techstars chose to launch one of its 45 accelerator programs in Detroit because of the area's top-tier talent, leading universities, ample capital, strong infrastructure, and rich automotive history. Other program alumni include HAAS Alert, a Responder-to-Vehicle technology that delivers real-time alerts to drivers when emergency vehicles are nearby, and Cargo, a company that helps rideshare drivers make more money by selling things like snacks, ear buds, and Advil to their passengers.

Training for the jobs of tomorrow

Bringing new companies to Michigan creates new jobs. In fact, the mobility industry will create 100,000 new jobs in the next 10 years, says Jessica Robinson, executive director of Michigan Mobility Institute. The Michigan Mobility Institute brings industry and education partners together to create programs that prepare people for these opportunities. It plans to build a brick and mortar educational institute to teach courses in robotics, AI, cybersecurity, and more. The institute currently operates from PlanetM Landing Zone, a coworking space for mobility companies in downtown Detroit.

"It seems like every week we make a new connection simply by being introduced to someone who drops by the space," says Robinson. "It's a great mix of startups, corporate members, and companies that are based outside of Michigan but want to have an office presence here."

Damien Rocchi, founder and CEO of Grand Circus, a tech training institution with campuses in Detroit and Grand Rapids, notes that because Michigan is home to the nation's top auto manufacturers, it allows for easy integration and relationship-building between established industry players and startups. Grand Circus uses workshops and bootcamps to prepare people with little-to-no prior coding experience to enter the workplace as full-fledged software developers. It teaches in-demand languages, including Java and C# .NET, the backbone of many of the technologies used in self-driving vehicles.

In these ways, and more, Michigan creates the jobs--and the skilled workforce--of tomorrow. "Automobiles and transportation seem to be in our DNA," says Robinson. "Generations of people have grown up thinking about design, movement, and transportation, and we can harness this for the next evolution of mobility technology."

 

Published on: May 20, 2019