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Howes: Michigan’s automakers compete for self-driving lead

March 22, 2019

The Detroit News

Daniel Howes

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“Rooted in a century of design engineering and manufacturing expertise, Michigan is leading the automotive industry’s evolution from traditional manufacturer to the research, testing, and deployment of next-generation mobility technology,” says a report to be released Tuesday by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto unit.

“From key public-private partnerships to being nationally competitive in mobility-related patents, Michigan is the place for testing and deployment of connected, automated, and electric vehicles. Within the next 30 years, fully autonomous vehicles will be commonplace on roadways across the United States.”

Michigan is ranked No. 1 in connected vehicle projects funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Business annually funds $12 billion in automotive research and development across the state. Michigan-based auto plants last year assembled 17 percent of all the vehicles built in the United States. More than 500 miles of roadway are ready for testing connected vehicles.

The trends are likely to accelerate, quickly, as automakers and major suppliers amp spending on electrification. Over the next decade, says Jim Tobin, chief marketing officer of Magna International Inc., automakers and suppliers are expected to invest $300 billion on electrification, up from just $90 billion a year ago.

“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” he said in an interview in advance of MICHauto’s annual meeting Tuesday, adding that when the technology will “hit mainstream” in the U.S. market ranks among the biggest uncertainties. “The China market by far will be the biggest consumer of battery-electric vehicles near-term.”

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