How Michigan is Leading the Mobility Race

Visitors to this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference likely noticed strange vehicular bedfellows at the Shepler’s ferry dock in Mackinaw City.

Photo credit: Julie Bitely

Two vehicles equipped with the latest in connected technology were parked side by side, one green and white and the other emblazoned with a familiar maize “M” logo. Respective teams from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan were on hand to talk about the development and integration of a host of technologies such as radars, cameras, sensors and cybersecurity.

The cars were symbolic of just how much the automotive industry has changed since the early days of Henry Ford and why it’s still a key focus for the state’s future. Conference attendees could also check out virtual reality tours of Michigan’s mobility assets showcasing the state’s leadership in autonomous vehicle research and development.

The cars and tours were presented by Planet M, an initiative launched by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation one year ago as a way to brand and connect Michigan’s overall automotive and mobility industry. The consortium represents automobile manufacturers and suppliers, universities, and public and private sector partners. Planet M billboards dotted highways on the way to this year’s policy conference.

“It’s all about the future of Michigan’s auto industry,” said MEDC Business Marketing Director Bob Metzger of Planet M.

That future is all about technology and the changing ways people are starting to think about mobility, including self-driving cars and the infrastructure they will require. While Silicon Valley gets a lot of attention for a burgeoning technology scene, Michigan has a lot going for it in the connected technology space, a key theme at this year’s conference.

  • The state ranks No. 1 in the nation for connected and automated vehicle projects.
  • It’s also ranked first in mobility-related patents (data processing – vehicles, navigation, relative location), boasting 2,583 patents awarded over the past five years, followed by California with 1,468 patents issued.
  • Michigan was the first state in the country to legalize self-driving vehicles, including ride-sharing services, on public roads.

A key recommendation from a recently-released report by Governor Rick Snyder’s Building the 21st Century Economy Commission is to “increase cross-sector collaboration to drive economic clusters, with a specific focus on mobility” as part of building a competitive business climate in the state.

“Michigan has made an incredible comeback, but we can’t be complacent or content,” Snyder said in a press release about the report, which can be found here.

Positioning Michigan as the epicenter of the automotive industry and moving forward despite a rapidly evolving landscape requires all hands on deck, no matter which part of the automotive industry you represent and yes, regardless of whether you’re a Spartan or a Wolverine.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a Diamond-level sponsor of the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference. 

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Main image photo credit: Matthias Ripp

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