MICHauto Student Forum Offers Glimpse of Exciting, In-Demand Careers

By Daniel A. Washington 

Helping to debunk common myths about the auto and mobility industry, MICHauto, in partnership with Ford Motor Co., Oakland University and Planet M, hosted its “Opportunity Auto.Mobility” student career forum on Feb. 16 that included a keynote and networking reception for more than 70 students. The event aims to better engage prospective talent with auto industry experts and employers.

“Auto manufacturers are looking for people who will bring a fresh perspective to the table,” said Jessica Robinson, director of city solutions (Ford Smart Mobility) for Ford, during her keynote address.

Robinson shared her journey leading up to her current role at Ford that included stops at Zipcar, one of the first ride-sharing companies in Detroit, and startup accelerator Techstars.

Robinson reiterated that in today’s industry, anyone with an interest can find a niche for their skills to thrive.

“Starting my career with Zipcar helped me understand the number of opportunities the auto industry can provide,” said Robinson.  “Who would have ever thought an anthropology major would work in the auto and mobility space?”

In addition, a panel of former Oakland students who currently work in the automotive industry discussed the possibilities of international travel, positive work culture and upward career mobility that their jobs offer.

“The autonomous tech space is exploding right now and is offering a number of opportunities to those in a number of fields to work and thrive in a creative and innovative way,” said Robinson.

The panel was moderated by MICHauto’s Rob Luce and included panelists: Mike Dudek, manager of commodity purchasing for Faurecia North America Inc.; Samantha Roberts, communications co-op for Yazaki North America Inc.; Elise Smith, manager of human resources and business partner for American Axle & Manufacturing Inc.; and Cassandra Traynor, manager of human resources for Brose North America Inc.

Following the presentations, students discussed employment opportunities with 16 auto-related companies at the networking reception. Companies in attendance represented a number of counties across the region showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of the industry.

Daniel A. Washington is a marketing and communications coordinator at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Cracking the Millennial Code

Metro Detroit businesses shifting culture, workspaces to attract younger talent

By Daniel A. Washington

With a proven track record of innovation and career advancement, the region’s auto industry, suppliers and service providers are becoming leading destinations for millennial talent.

Companies such as Lear Corp., TI Automotive, P3 and Tweddle Group have invested greatly in Southeast Michigan and are leading the way in reinventing themselves to appeal to a new generation.

Lear Corp. has invested in a unique office space design that appeal to top talent among millennials.

Lear Corp. has invested in a unique office space design that appeal to top talent among millennials.

“Design and creative talent is exceptional in Detroit and the opening of the Lear Innovation Center will help us gain a competitive advantage within the industry,” said Dave McNulty, vice president of human resources and global talent acquisition at Lear, regarding the recent $10 million investment in Detroit’s Capitol Park.

Creating a place and space dedicated solely  to creativity, the Innovation Center will  focus on next-generation automotive battery  charging, seating designs and technology  integration and non-automotive projects for  clients such as Shinola, Nike, Under Armour  and New Balance.

The Southfield-based global supplier  of automotive seating and electrical  systems’ latest investment is just one of  the many examples that auto suppliers  and service providers are taking to  retain a competitive edge ahead of others  seeking to poach talent.

“We love metro Detroit because it is a talent-rich area and is where grit and ability go  hand-in-hand, which results in a pool of local people who have the vision to see the  future and the guts to get us there,” said Paul Arnegard, vice president of creative services at Tweddle Group.

Tweddle’s new office, focused on  connected car software in downtown Detroit, is currently home to more than 30  employees. The 65-year-old automotive communications and publishing firm has plans to add up to 20 more employees in  the upcoming year.

“Tweddle Group isn’t going anywhere,” said Arnegard about the company’s commitment to Detroit and the region. “Our focus is on creating a culture where millennials want to be.”

Simply put, Michigan and the region is a proven testing ground for millennial talent  looking to develop and contribute to an  emerging field of connected mobility and  technology.

P3's open workspace allows creative minds to work together without the confines of cubicals.

P3’s open workspace allows creative minds to work together without the confines of cubicals.

P3’s new facility in Southfield serves as the  company’s automotive headquarters in the  Americas and includes open collaboration  spaces and a 10-car, full-vehicle workshop  with prototyping capabilities.

The center also houses multiple labs  to provide cutting-edge insights on  connectivity, autonomous vehicles, eMobility, cybersecurity and other in-vehicle telematics and mobility solutions.

“In a time when top talent is in high demand,  P3 realizes the need to set ourselves apart from all of the competition,” said LaToya Palmer, head of human resources and legal at P3.

Palmer expressed P3’s commitment to further advancing millennials’ skill sets and providing advancement opportunities to  increase employment value.

“We are dedicated to helping our employees build a meaningful career, which for many millennials is critical to job satisfaction, and  we pride ourselves on offering opportunities to work on cutting-edge projects for  big clients that help shape the future of  mobility,” she added.

Home to a number of world-class universities  and schools, the region offers auto and tech companies the opportunity to train and work closely with a robust educational  talent pipeline.

TI Automotive’s new corporate offices located in Auburn Hills are home to a collaborative floor-plan and one-of-a-kind architectural design.

TI Automotive has invested in a unique office space designs that appeal to top talent among millennials.

TI Automotive, located in Auburn Hills, has invested heavily in its offices to attract millennial talent.

“We engage university students as a first  step in attracting young professionals to  the company,” said Domenic Milicia, chief human resources and communications  officer at TI Automotive. “We do this in  two ways: by sponsoring various technical projects in local universities and offering our extensive co-op and internship programs to 20 to 30 students each year.”

The automotive fluid storage and delivery systems supplier is leading the way with others in the region in creating opportunities and environments for talent to thrive and forward-thinking culture and career succeed. The uptick in talent investment placement.

Daniel A. Washington is a marketing by companies is a telling sign, pointing and communications coordinator with the Detroit to the region as a haven for technology, Regional Chamber.

Michigan Leading the Mobility Revolution

By James Amend 

Automakers are conducting an unprecedented technology harvest, scouring the globe for the latest breakthroughs to prepare their organizations for a revolution in personal mobility.

And make no mistake, industry leaders say, the day when autonomous cars and trucks begin plying the nation’s roadways — or when people choose to borrow, share or rent a vehicle instead of owning it — is just around the corner.

Ford recently announced its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation by 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

Ford Motor Co.’s fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on the streets of Dearborn. Ford has been researching autonomous vehicles for more than a decade and currently tests fully autonomous vehicles in Michigan, Arizona and California.

“In the history of technology, we have been surprised often by the speed of which it matures and autonomous vehicles will be another example of that,” said Ken Washington, vice president of research and advanced engineering at Ford Motor Co. “What I don’t want to do is leave the impression that getting there is going to be easy, because it won’t be.”

To meet this unprecedented change, the industry must break away from a century old business model. Instead of designing and engineering new technologies almost entirely in-house, automakers will have to collaborate more closely with traditional suppliers, forge partnerships outside of automotive and build entirely new units within their companies focused on future modes of transportation.

Ford has already begun real-world testing of autonomous vehicles with exercises in California, Arizona and Michigan. The company expects by the next decade it will be selling cars and trucks that operate without a steering wheel, throttle or brake pedal.

“I am very optimistic that the (Ford) target of 2021 is very achievable and we’re committed to it,” Washington added.

Automakers are conducting an unprecedented technology harvest, scouring the globe for the latest breakthroughs to prepare their organizations for a revolution in personal mobilitytion of alternative fuel.

A group of Ford Motor Co. engineers work on a phone-as-car go app. When a passenger gets into a ride sharing car, he or she taps a mobile device that automatically opens an app interface giving him or her control of the radio and climate. Eventually, any controllable feature, like the passenger seat, could be added.

The real-world testing is part of Ford Smart Mobility, a plan the 113-year-old automaker expects will put it on the leading edge of autonomous vehicle technology, connectivity, mobility, customer experience, and data and analytics. The Ford plan includes strategic investments in technology companies — City Maps, Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, SAIPS and Velodyne — meant to deepen the automaker’s expertise in emerging technologies, such as computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-resolution 3-D mapping.

Much of Ford’s work on future mobility falls under the direction of Smart Mobility CEO Rajendra “Raj” Rao. A transformation agent, Rao previously built out the digital prowess of companies such as IGATE Capital, Brunswick Corp. and 3M. Rao underscores the gravity of future mobility work at Ford by calling the opportunity to lead Smart Mobility a “culmination” of his career.

Other automakers are taking similar steps. General Motors has partnered with a pair of San Francisco-based companies, Lyft and Cruise Automation, to speed development of its ride-sharing and autonomous driving initiatives. The company also launched its own personal mobility service, Maven, in January.

FCA US LLC has leapt into autonomous research through a partnership with Google, arguably one of the world’s leading technology companies. The unlikely duo has cloaked their work in secrecy for competitive reasons, but it reportedly consists of outfitting 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans with Google’s autonomous vehicle technology.

“What develops from here, we’ll see,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told journalists in Windsor recently.

Volkswagen, which is remaking its business after a damaging emissions-cheating scandal, hired Johann Jungwirth away from Apple to lead its digitization efforts as the German automaker stretches into autonomous vehicles and the mobility services of ride-hailing and car-sharing.

Jungwirth recently disclosed plans for a standalone brand at VW entirely devoted to urban mobility services.

At Toyota Motor Co., professors and scholars are encouraged to pursue research in green energy technology to explore the next generation of alternative fuel.

At Toyota Motor Co., professors and scholars are encouraged to pursue research in green energy technology to explore the next generation of alternative fuel.

Toyota has put its autonomous vehicle development under the auspices of Gill Pratt, a robotics genius who previously led the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency centered on driverless cars and machine learning. Pratt is CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, an Ann Arbor hub for the Japanese automaker tasked with developing artificial intelligence systems, so its cars can someday learn the intricacies of driving.

But Pratt said even an engineering giant such as Toyota must go outside its organization to achieve unquestionably safe driverless cars.

“Coopetition is actually the goal here,” he said. “Our great hope is for constructive competition and also collaboration between all the car manufacturers, the IT companies, different governments and hardware manufacturers.”

James Amend is a senior editor at WardsAuto in Southfield.

As Vehicles Become Smarter, Traditional Suppliers Ramp Up Focus on Driverless Tech

By James Amend

Automakers have a map to future  mobility, and the industry’s long roster of suppliers will play a major role in getting them there with a plethora of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

It is estimated that innovations from auto parts makers will account for 69 percent of value-added content in 2025, up from 30 percent in 2012. Delphi CEO Jeff Owens said his company examines the challenges confronting its customers and then composes a portfolio of solutions to choose from, either an à la carte or a system-wide option.

“We think about it in terms of what (OEMs)  need. What types of problems are they trying  to solve, and how can we be of value?” Owens said.

A view of hands-free driving from inside a vehicle using Magna International-developed technology.

A view of hands-free driving from inside a vehicle using Magna International-developed technology.

The approach led Delphi to recently acquire Ottomatika, a spinoff out of Carnegie Mellon University, to strengthen its advanced autonomous driving products. The automaker also bought Control-Tec, an expert in
telematics and cloud-hosted analytics to help OEMs find elusive quality bugs during late-stage vehicle testing.

Delphi is also working with MobilEye, an Israeli company focused on computer vision systems and mapping, on a fully autonomous technology package slated for commercialization in 2019-2020. The partnership underpins a large-scale, one-of-a-kind pilot program Delphi is conducting on the streets of Singapore.

But the United Kingdom-based supplier, which operates a sprawling R&D campus in Troy, continues to focus on more traditional customer demands, too. For example, it will begin offering a plug-and-play mild electrification option next year for an efficiency gain of up to 15 percent at a fraction of the cost of full-hybrid technology. Together with a next-generation cylinder deactivation technology under testing, fuel savings could rise to 25 percent.

Japan-based Denso, one of the world’s four largest automotive suppliers, is working on arguably the most critical element of autonomous vehicles: keeping the person behind the vehicle attentive, or “in the loop,” as its researchers say.

IAV Automotive Engineering is partnering with Microsoft and its connected highly automated driving (CHAD) vehicle to test vehicle-to-infrastructure connection.

IAV Automotive Engineering is partnering with Microsoft and its connected highly automated driving (CHAD) vehicle to test vehicle-to-infrastructure connection.

“Understanding attention is critical in  determining if the driver is in the loop. If we can sense when a driver is out of the loop, we can alert them to get back in the loop,” said Pat Bassett, vice president at Denso’s North American Engineering Center in Southfield.

Denso has established an entire laboratory dedicated to gaining a deeper understanding of driver attention levels and designing an interface that will safely disengage and reengage drivers during autonomous operation.

The company has also partnered with Detroit’s NextEnergy, a technology accelerator, to help the supplier scout out advanced mobility and smart city technologies still under development. The collaboration also will create networking, startup engagement and relationship-building opportunities with NextEnergy clients.

IAV Automotive Engineering, a Northville engineering house historically associated with engine development services, has its hands in the autonomous vehicle space through a partnership with Microsoft and its connected highly automated vehicle driving (CHAD).

CHAD combines Microsoft Azure and Windows 10 technologies for a forward thinking vehicle-to-infrastructure connection, where data can be gathered from connected vehicles, traffic-light sensors and wearable devices worn by pedestrians to enhance safety.

Andy Ridgway, president of IAV, said the technology will “pave the way for a safer, more intelligent vehicle of tomorrow.”

Other suppliers aggressively bent on filling future technology demands from automakers include American Axle & Manufacturing, BorgWarner, Brose North America, Magna International and Visteon.

A year ago, American Axle opened its Advanced Technology Development Center in Detroit. Now with more than 200 employees, the Center allows for greater synergy and collaboration in technology benchmarking, prototype development and advanced technology development in electrification and light-weighting.

“We are trying to drive mobility innovation here. We want to stay out in front of the competition and put our customers in the lead. We are deeply invested in Detroit, the mobility capital of the world. We never stopped believing that,” said Bill Smith, AAM executive director of government affairs and community relations.

Denso is dedicated to getting a deeper understanding of driver attention levels and designing an interface that will safely disengage and re-engage drivers during autonomous operation.

Denso is dedicated to getting a deeper understanding of driver attention levels and designing an interface that will safely disengage and re-engage drivers during autonomous operation.

The Brose product portfolio fulfills and anticipates current industry trends. The mechatronics specialist for doors, seats and drives continuously develops smarter and lighter versions of its solutions. Brose developed an expertise in its drives business division, supporting the electrification of drivetrain and demanding emission regulations. The company received a lot of interest when introducing its hands-free vehicle access solution since technologies related to autonomous driving require a combination of systems and sensors, as well.

BorgWarner of Auburn Hills has become a one-stop shop for automakers seeking vehicle efficiency gains. It offers a suite of advanced combustion technologies; hybrid vehicle systems spanning mild to full hybrid solutions; fully electric propulsion units; electrically operated turbochargers to boost efficiency; and all-wheel-drive systems that require less energy.

Canada-based Magna International, an industry leader in powertrains, safety systems and other big-ticket components, is developing a technology that monitors a driver’s heart rate to determine if they are becoming drowsy. The innovation, which relies on sensors embedded in the seat cushion and back rest, has not come to market yet, but is seen as an integral piece of safe autonomous driving.

Van Buren Township-based Visteon is redefining the driving experience with innovative instrument panel technologies such as SmartCore, which integrates advanced infotainment, instrument clusters, head-up displays and advanced driver assistance system domains.

The company’s dual organic light-emitting diode display technology saves automakers money by allowing them to retain existing human-machine interfaces — or the connection between the driver and the car — while adding the portable-device functionality drivers increasingly expect.

James Amend is a senior editor at WardsAuto in Southfield.