Experts Examine the Formation of the Autonomous Drive Industry

By: Kelly Weatherwax

Throughout the North American International Auto Show Industry Preview Days, conversations around autonomous vehicles flooded the halls. Everyone wants expert insight on when these vehicles will become consumer products, what infrastructure and legislation will be needed to move automated vehicles forward, and most of all – where will all the talent come from?

May Mobility CEO Ed Olson sat down in AutoMobili-D with a panel of experts from companies working on the future of automotive in one way or another, for more insight into how this autonomous drive industry will culminate.

So when will this technology take over the roads like the iPod took over the music industry? Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3 said by 2021 he believes most OEMs in the western world will have fully autonomous driving deployment, but there is still a lot more R&D and testing to be done to allow that to happen.

“Germany and the U.S. are leading on autonomous vehicle development. By2021 China will catch up. They’re lagging on key complexity, because of high congestion,” Ghosh explained. “Currently the U.S. is at the forefront with legislation like what Gov. Snyder signed. Other countries like China will be more restrictive and fall behind.”

Talent is top of mind

With innovation happening so rapidly, challenges arise that need to be addressed and the one that is top of mind for everyone is talent.

Udacity, an online education platform that offers AI courses with a focus on autonomous vehicle education, is one way people can get the skills they need for the growing industry demands.

“More than 10,000 students have enrolled in the ‘Intro to Self-Driving Cars’ course and go off to get jobs in Detroit, Silicon Valley and Germany,” explained David Silver, an engineer for the nanodegree program at Udacity. “At the end of the nine-week course the students take the code they worked on and test it on the road on an autonomous vehicle where they see real-time how the code interacts with lane and path finding, and adhering to traffic laws.”

Recognizing that P3 has a global talent pool, Gosh said the company is always looking for creative ways to recruit because attracting talent is a challenge with everyone fighting for the same finite resource.

“When it comes to project work, we are inclined to look at the U.S. market and look through certain visa regulations set up through NAFTA,” he explained.

Cybersecurity on the frontlines is key to success

Many have questioned if OEMs have learned from past mistakes.

“Are we handling security better with autonomous vehicles today than we did with the connected car where cybersecurity was an afterthought?” asked Geoffrey Wood, director of automotive cybersecurity for Harman. “Investing in security research to do R&D for technology to be implemented on the frontlines of this is going to be key to the success of autonomous vehicles.”

Ride-sharing alone is expected to pose a large vulnerability – when you get into the vehicle the car is going to know you in some way and the rider before or after you may have access to that data.

“Being able to pull data off vehicles and continually monitor the system – we need to get to that point infrastructure-wise,” Wood explained.

Investing in the proper research and engaging legislators early to understand the technology they are legalizing will be checkpoints in the process that will delay autonomous cars for years to come if missed.

Robust, safe infrastructure will be an expensive challenge

The way roads are designed, from signage to parking, will need to be different for autonomous vehicles to dominate the road, but who is going to fund new infrastructure?

“You can start charging a tax for driving, a curbside tax for shared vehicles, or a tax system to charge against vehicle owners that need that infrastructure in place,” said David Ben, chief technology officer for PPG.

Olson added that building maps, understanding traffic flow, building the shortest loop that makes sense, are all things May Mobility is currently working on.

MICHauto Convenes Industry Experts, Educators to Share Insight on State’s Talent Challenges

MICHauto hosted 55 automotive industry experts and regional educators Wednesday to discuss the status of Michigan’s automotive industry and next-generation talent needs. The event kicked off with four presentations focusing on the state’s talent pipeline and the convergence of technology and mobility. Presenters provided startling facts regarding mobility, manufacturing and the growing talent gap:

  • Every job in manufacturing creates another 2.5 new jobs in local goods or services
  • “Software developer” was the top manufacturing job posting from 2010 through 2015
  • Michigan is responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s automotive research and development
  • 65 percent of children entering kindergarten today will work in jobs that are not yet defined

Following the presentations, Square One Education Network Chief Technology Officer Michael Tucker moderated a town hall discussion that explored key issues regarding the growing talent shortage in Michigan’s automotive sector and ways in which local industry leaders can collaborate with educators to promote exciting, well-paying careers in the automotive and mobility field.

Techstars Alumni: Detroit is Built for Entrepreneurs

Detroit is the place to be for aspiring entrepreneurs. That was the message a panel of three Techstars alumni emphasized during a candid discussion about their experience participating in the three-month startup accelerator program. The panel was part of a week of programming at the North American International Auto Show’s new Automobili-D exhibit.

“The media doesn’t do a good job telling Detroit’s story. I fell in love with the city immediately and I know others did, too,” said Rohith Varanasi, co-founder of the cell phone startup, Lunar.

Varanasi was joined on stage by Chris Bailey, CEO and co-founder of Revio; and Greta Cutulenco, CEO and co-founder of Acerta. All three alumni credited their experience with Techstars with invaluable connections to investors, industry mentors and training.

“Learning how to interact with investors and walking us through step-by-step on how to grow our business was very helpful,” Bailey said.

Revio offers cutting-edge safety and security products for the power sports industry, while Acerta focuses on machine-assisted anomaly detection and root cause analysis.

When asked by an audience member whether the startups have become profitable since exiting the Techstars program, all three alumni expressed affirmation for the coming year.

“We’re still growing,” Cutulenco said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Techstars helping us make connections.”

For more information on Techstars, visit www.techstars.com.

Maven’s Julia Steyn: Technology is ‘Enabler’ for Michigan’s Mobility Future

Closing out programming for this year’s Automobili-D exhibit at the North American International Show, Daniel Howes, columnist for The Detroit News, sat down with Julia Steyn, General Motors’ vice president of urban mobility and Maven, to discuss car-sharing and the future of mobility in Michigan.

“(Mobility) technology keeps moving forward, so you can either look at it as a disruptor or enabler,” said Steyn about the forthcoming challenges facing the automotive industry with the increase of autonomous technology and mobility-sharing platforms. “I prefer to see it as an enabler while continuing to innovate.”

Steyn also spoke on GM’s leadership in car-sharing and mobility as a service during panel discussions earlier in the week. Read the Detroiter’s in-depth interview with Steyn about Detroit and GM’s long-term mobility vision here.

Legal Experts: Liability, Privacy and Cybersecurity Challenges Ahead for Autonomous Technology Adoption

As more automated and driverless technologies are brought to market, questions regarding liability, privacy, data management and cybersecurity could present myriad legal challenges for automakers and suppliers in the not-so-distant future. That was a key message legal experts stressed in a candid conversation on “rights and regulations” on the Automobili-D stage at the North American International Auto Show on Thursday.

Kicking off the discussion, Patrick Seyferth, partner at Bush Seyferth & Paige PLLC, cautioned that the use of loaded language, specifically promoting autonomous vehicles as “saving lives,” should be used sparingly. Citing examples like the death of a Tesla autopilot driver, Seyferth said there is a common misperception that autonomous vehicles will totally eliminate human error and reduce accidents from texting, drunkenness, and other forms of distracted driving. In reality, according to Seyferth, automated vehicles shift human error from the driving to the programming and design.

“I’m not suggesting that autonomous technology is bad, I just think we need to pay a little more attention to what safety advocates are saying,” he said.

Tom Manganello, partner at Warner Norcross & Judd, disagreed with Seyferth’s analysis of safety, stating autonomous tech will be a key catalyst to improving safety on roadways across the world.

“Fatalities have gone up 6,000 per year at a time when cars are the safest they’ve ever been from a passive protection standpoint. So what’s the problem? The problem is people. Will automated vehicle technology prevent all deaths? No. What we will see is a rapid reduction in serious injuries and deaths the more the driver can be taken out of the system,” he said.

Discussion also focused on cybersecurity risk and data protection.

“When you think connectivity, you have to look at your vulnerabilities,” said Jennifer Dukarski, attorney with Butzel Long. “Imagine a nefarious person being able to hack a fleet of police vehicles to learn their exact location.”

Despite the challenges, Dukarski said Michigan is well-positioned to lead in the testing and development of connected and autonomous vehicles with the passage of the Safe Autonomous Vehicles (SAVE) Act.

The panel was moderated by Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto.

Automotive and Startup Leaders: ‘Be Firm and Flexible’ with Partnerships

Listen and truly understand the needs of your corporate partner. Be willing to change and adapt. Accept help, corporate partners must be involved in product development.

These were just a few of the tips provided by the automotive and startup collaboration panel on the Automobili-D stage at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Wednesday. Panelists included Motus’ Jim Disanto, Spatial’s Lyden Foust, PolySync’s Josh Hartung, Michelin’s Patrick Kirby, and General Motors’ Alisyn Malek. The panel was moderated by Techstars’ Laura Kennedy.

Together the automotive leaders and startups shared their personal experience, tricks of the trade and advice on achieving success.

“Remember that it’s not only about you trying to sell a product. You have to share ideas, back and forth with each other and truly be open to changing,” Disanto said.

“It’s very important to know the language. With an understanding of the corporate partner’s culture and environment, the process will be that much smoother,” Malek said.

The overall theme of the panel was for future startup founders to stay dedicated and committed to their product.

“There is no guaranteed formula, it’s truly a journey. My best advice is to be like bamboo – stay firm, but flexible,” Foust said.

As New Technology Emerges, Michigan Can Lead Automotive Revolution

As new technology comes to market, Michigan must not take anything for granted to lead in the race for the connected and autonomous vehicle.

“Technology can transform the auto industry and save thousands of lives,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto.  “The opportunities are endless.”

Stevens led a panel of automotive experts on a discussion focused on connectivity and opportunity during Automobili-D at the North American International Auto Show on Wednesday. Panelists shared their own predictions of the future.

“It’s not only about bringing technology inside the car, but it’s also about connecting that technology to the world around you – using all the data points already collected to work together,” said Peter Brown, chief automotive architect for Wind River.

“Imagine getting in your car and not only having the latest technology to get you from point A to point B, with the quickest and easiest route, but using all the data points to have your parking spot available and already paid for before you get there – in one step,” Brown added.

Panelists agreed that future opportunities will come in four waves: the car, the driver, the road and the city. How can technology be used to make the quality of the car better, increase the convenience of the driver, make the roads safer and help the city with its overall efficiency?

“How we connect the sources of data and how and when to use them is both the opportunity and the challenge,” said Andrew Hart, director of automotive consultancy firm SBD.

Other challenges discussed were concerns about privacy and security. With car-sharing and ride-sharing options becoming more prevalent, cities such as Detroit will also have to consider the challenges of losing revenue in parking fees, traffic tickets and even the decline of car and health insurance costs.

“Developing the technology is indeed an opportunity, but connecting it to the rest of the world takes it to the next level,” Brown said.

Techstars Helping Detroit Startups Lead in Mobility Space

With much talk about how the region will lead in the race for connected and autonomous vehicle development at this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), several Techstars affiliate companies and alumni believe the answer starts and ends in Detroit.

“There are great resources here in Detroit,” said Chris Stallman, principal at Fontinalis Partners, on a panel discussing why the city and mobility go hand-in-hand.

“We see a lot of engineering and manufacturing companies in this area. We see higher rates of success with companies that think globally in the Detroit market than anywhere else,” he said.

Helping create a global ecosystem for entrepreneurs, Ted Serbinski, managing director of Techstars, shared exactly how the startup accelerator accomplishes its mission.

“(We do this by) connecting the startup and automotive worlds by breaking down silos and workings across the industry to build partnerships around innovation,” Serbinski said while providing an overview of Techstars. “Simply put, Techstars is bringing disruption back to its birthplace – right here in Detroit.”

With corporate partnerships including Ford Motor Co., Honda, Magna International, Verizon and others, Techstars is providing nearly 12 mobility startups per year with a significant financial investment totaling $120,000.

“Some of the strategic investments that are driving the entrepreneurial story are big here,” said Gregg Garrett, CEO and managing director of CGS Advisors. “We have true product leaders in Detroit.”

The panel also included Anya Babbitt, CEO and co-founder of SPLT, and Jessica Robinson, director of City Solutions for Ford. The panel was moderated by Lisa Seymour, project manager at Techstars Mobility.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn: Autonomous Technology Must Drive Auto Industry’s Future

Delivering a keynote address on the Automobili-D stage at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Nissan Motor Corp. Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn outlined his vision for the future of autonomous driving while also discussing the impact of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Ghosn highlighted four megatrends that are transforming the automotive industry. These trends include: the proliferation of global electric vehicle sales, increased consumer preference for autonomous and driverless vehicles, smart technology and connectivity, and the emergence of car-sharing and mobility as a service.

While he believes autonomous and driverless vehicles will dominant roads over the next decade, Ghosn did not discount the fact that automakers will still have to design and engineer a vehicle that consumers will want to purchase.

“In the end, we will still need an attractive, reliable vehicle that drives well,” he said.

Ghosn said as the auto industry embraces new technologies, collaboration among automakers, startups, the government, and the private sector will be essential.

In answering a question about President-elect Trump’s stance toward automakers who shift vehicle production out of the United States, Ghosn said Nissan has adapted a wait and see approach to the new administration’s policies while expressing hope for the future.

“If there’s one thing I would ask of President-elect Trump, it would be to maintain consumer confidence and a strong economy,” he said.

Dan Gilbert on Detroit Talent at NAIAS: ‘No Place Else Compares’

Speaking at the kickoff of the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Sunday, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert said no place on the planet has more talent and drive than Detroit – a key selling point for tech and automotive companies looking to become players in the next-generation mobility space.

“The energy, cooperation and collaboration is here,” Gilbert told an audience of national and international journalists at the opening of the new Automobili-D exhibit. “You can have a great product and service but you have to have the talent … Detroit is that magnet.”

In addressing questions from Bloomberg reporter Betty Liu on what sets Detroit apart from other cities in the United States, Gilbert said he believes giving millennials the opportunity to feel like they are part of something greater than themselves is a major selling point.

Gilbert, a 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference keynote speaker, also reiterated his message of being willing to take big risks and said he is amazed at the number of businesses moving back to the city. Noting that existing real estate in the downtown area is nearing capacity, Gilbert predicted that 10 to 15 high-rise buildings will begin construction in Detroit over the next five years. View the interview here.

Other announcements throughout the day included:

  • Disney’s Pixar Animation Studio offered a sneak peak of its upcoming “Cars 3” film. Flanked by a life-size model of “Lightening McQueen,” the star of the film series, John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, discussed Detroit and the auto show’s impact on the studio’s blockbuster movie. Research and development for the first film began after Lasseter visited the auto show in 2001.
  • Chris Thomas, founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners LLC, discussed Detroit’s role in the future of mobility and encouraged public and private collaboration to keep Michigan at the forefront of transportation as a service. “Detroit has an opportunity to be a global hub for mobility but we have to act now, or it will pass us by,” he said.
  • John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduced the Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivan, which will be on the roads in California and Arizona later this month. He also said Michigan built 100 Pacifica minivans that will be the first vehicles to receive Waymo’s self-driving technology. “We’re not seeking to build a better car,” Krafcik said. “We’re seeking to build a better driver.”
  • Ken Washington of Ford Motor Co., Danny Shapiro of NVIDIA, and David Strickland of the Self-Driving Coalition, participated in a State of Autonomy panel discussion for the last event of the day. The panelists discussed the latest technology, current legislation, major consumer concerns and what needs to happen to take autonomous vehicles from prototypes to mainstream. The panel was moderated by Tim Stevens of CNET’s “Roadshow.”