Michigan, the birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry, remains as the leading breeding ground for mobility technology.

The state offers state-of-the-art infrastructure and testing facilities; favorable legislation, including a package of bills legalizing self-driving vehicles on state roads; and a collaborative atmosphere in which organizations of all kinds work together toward a common goal: to realize mobility’s future, in the state where it all began.

Michigan engineers who used to work for manufacturing plants are starting technology companies. These startups, along with legacy auto brands, are creating the new mobility ecosystem.

Automotive manufacturers need more software than ever before, which contributes to the fast growth of Michigan’s information technology (IT) industry. Since 2009, the state’s IT job growth has outpaced the nation. The region is expected to maintain this pace into 2025, according to Detroit Regional Chamber. Factors that make Michigan a hotbed for innovation include unique resources, a rich talent pool, and a long history.

As evidence of the growth of Michigan’s IT explosion, the state’s 2,300 mobility-related patents leads the nation.

Rich in Resources

“Innovation in the autonomous vehicle industry is happening here-;today,” says Alisyn Malek, co-founder and chief operating officer of May Mobility, an autonomous vehicle fleet operator in Ann Arbor, Mich. Malek previously worked at General Motors (GM), where she led investments in the autonomous space and worked as an automotive engineer. She says her experience bringing new technology to market in this highly regulated industry has proved invaluable.

May Mobility takes advantage of uniquely Michigan resources, including 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.

MEDC connected May Mobility to key members of local government, helping to advance its ability to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state.

PlanetM director Seun Phillips describes the program as a free concierge. “We serve as an entry point to the mobility ecosystem by facilitating connections to corporations, startups, investors, universities, and other resources,” he says. PlanetM also offers grants that cover up to 75 percent of costs for testing new technologies at partner testing facilities and offers grants and funding to help businesses take their concepts to the real world.

Other local resources include Ann Arbor SPARK, an economic development engine, Automation Alley, a leading technology business association, and TechTown, Detroit’s business innovation hub, to name just a few.

Teeming with Talent and History

Jim Simpson, director of product management at Duo Security, says Southeastern Michigan’s talent pool was key to the company’s success. Founded in 2010, Duo Security was one of the fastest-growing cyber securities providers in the world when it was purchased by Cisco in 2018.

The company is not solely mobility-focused, but it demonstrates the type of success Michigan facilitates. The state has the highest concentration of industrial and mechanical engineers in the country, and many Michigan colleges and universities not only offer computer and information science degrees, but also specialized programs in automotive technology and design, and other mobility technologies.

This unique talent pool ensures that Michigan’s mobility industry will continue to be the epicenter of innovation. Not only is this home-grown talent staying in Michigan, top-tier technology talent from around the country and world are flocking to Michigan to be a part of this mobility tech hotbed.

Published on: May 2, 2019