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Jul 2016
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July 19, 2016

Why We Need the American Center for Mobility . . . Now


Automated mobility and talent (shortage, retention and attraction)—these topics seem to dominate conferences, meetings and informal conversations throughout the industry. Are these vehicles coming? When are they coming? Will they be safe?

How will they be regulated? How will we address liability? Who’s going to make them? Who’s going to fill the ever-expanding talent needs of the auto industry? So many questions; so few answers.

So let’s try to put things in perspective.

Automated Mobility

The State of Michigan continued its leadership position via some very bold, even controversial, steps when State Senators Kowal, Warren and Horn introduced four bills regarding automated vehicles and created the American Center for Mobility. Identified as senate bills 995-998, this package addresses the operation of truly autonomous vehicles and the establishment of Safe Automated Vehicles Environment (SAVE) zones which allow for the operation of geo-fenced platoons of fully autonomous vehicle services—just imagine GM owned and operated (with a little help from Lyft), fully automated, driverless vehicles that will be available on demand to shuttle folks throughout downtown Detroit. The bills also include limitations on product liability for any modified or hacked vehicles. Finally and somewhat disappointingly, the fourth bill recognizes, but fails to explain, define, fund or empower the American Center for Mobility a/k/a Willow Run.

Talent

Unfortunately, both the State of Michigan and the automotive industry, with a few exceptions, seem to be at a loss for what to do about our shortage of talent, be it attraction and/or retention. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s We Run On Brainpower campaign hasn’t run too far or too fast and there doesn’t seem to be an industry consensus on a solution in sight.

Are these two topics related? Can they be and should they be? I believe so. Our beloved, but historically siloed industry needs a place, a focal point that isn’t attached to or identified with any particular OEM or major tier 1 supplier, but rather becomes the epicenter of new mobility, The American Center for Mobility. This center needs to be supported  both publicly and financially  by the entire auto industry present in Michigan as well as the state and regional governments. But why would  governmental entities,  or  major OEMs with their own tech centers and proving-grounds financially, support a neutral site? Because if done right, it will become a draw for talent and technology so desperately needed now and even more so in the near future. If done correctly, it could be the think tank for mobility technology leadership, attracting vehicle, infrastructure, regulatory and legislative leadership. Think talent, technology and financial stability into the next era of mobility, but we need to act now.

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