Michigan Automakers Pave Way for City of Tomorrow

Connectivity, ride-sharing and electrification address challenges in dense urban areas

By James Amend

The city of tomorrow, where public, private and shared mobility services are interconnected to more efficiently and sustainably move people and goods, lies years down the road, but Detroit automakers already are paving the way.

“It is a time of tremendous change,” said Jessica Robinson, director of City Solutions at Ford Motor Company.

Advancements in autonomous and electric vehicles are occurring every day as the industry transforms from traditional automaker to personal mobility provider. Meanwhile, ride-hailing and car-sharing services are rapidly expanding and very shortly cars will communicate with each other and a city’s infrastructure. At the same time, however, the global population is skyrocketing, especially in urban areas  already suffocating under transportation congestion.

Robinson’s group is a one-of-a-kind unit within the industry tasked with addressing urban-environment issues and developing mobility solutions for congested cities. The group has delivered numerous innovations, although a key element of its early work has been reaching out to city leaders around the world to get a firsthand look at the mobility challenges facing urban centers.

“We can’t build more streets,” Robinson said. “So how do we move more people and more goods? The way to do that is greater orchestration.”

In New York, for example, traffic speed in Manhattan’s midtown area has fallen 20 percent in the last 10 years to 4.7 mph. And despite the litany of public transit options, vehicle ownership in outer boroughs such as Brooklyn remain a relatively robust 40 percent.

Ford’s Chariot startup was an early answer for New York. The on-demand ride-sharing service employs Ford Transit vans and shuttles up to 14 passengers along commuter routes. Vans take up the footprint of oneand-a-half vehicles and complement existing public transit routes as a first- and lastmile option for commuters. The company crowdsources rider data, too, so Chariot can service the right places at the right time.

“Microtransit fits into an industry middle ground between high-quality public transit and driving yourself, or walking,” Robinson said. “It enhances peoples’ ability to get around, brings efficiency with the shared piece and is responsive to demand.”

Chariot has expanded into eight other cities, including San Francisco, Austin and Seattle. Ford also recently began a public bicycle sharing service in collaboration with San Francisco’s transit authority. Ford GoBike launched in 2013 with 700 bikes available across 70 stations. Later this year, the automaker expects to provide 7,000 bikes.

Ford GoDrive is another experiment. It is a one-way car-sharing service in London, England. Parking is guaranteed and riders pay as they go, reserving and accessing cars with a smartphone app.

GENERAL MOTORS

General Motors is working on several initiatives, including its Maven car-sharing unit. Maven offers GM cars and trucks for hourly, daily and weekly use targeting everyday people, residential communities, commercial entities, and the gig economy, an exploding network of drivers providing mobility services in urban areas under short-term contracts.

Launched in New York and Ann Arbor just over 18 months ago, Maven has expanded into nearly every major U.S. metropolitan market with 10,000 vehicles having logged 170 million miles.

Peter Kosak, executive director of Urban Mobility at GM, said Maven Gig is an example of how new forms of mobility satisfy changing consumer demands, generate jobs, and provide transportation to underserved populations. And with thousands of units of the Chevrolet Bolt, Maven Gig is slashing emissions and giving civic leaders critical insight to building future electric vehicle charging stations.
“The next step would be autonomous vehicles and a link to mass transit,” Kosak said.

Kosak said autonomous electric vehicles working in concert with local transit authorities could make a city more sustainable by reducing public transport costs, as well as providing rides and delivery services to urban areas outside of bus and rail routes.

“Now we can get our elderly to the doctor. We can deliver food. We can get our kids to school,” he said. “It is a powerful concept.”

FCA US LLC

Fiat Chrysler (FCA US LLC) also is driving the industry toward an autonomous future. The automaker’s Chrysler Pacifica minivan is being used by Google’s driverless car unit, Waymo. Testing of 600 cars is underway in California and Waymo was expected to expand its validation work into Southeast Michigan in late 2017.

The automaker also is collaborating with Germany’s BMW, chipmaker Intel, and Mobileye, an Israeli automotive vision expert, on self-driving technology. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne called the collaboration vital to advancing driverless cars by sharing technologies and creating greater scale to drive down cost for users.

FCA also adopted Google’s powerful Android operating system to heighten the connectivity potential of its latestgeneration UConnect infotainment system. The system would potentially string together the growing universe of Android-powered devices and systems.

“(The) collaboration with Google has been an extremely beneficial opportunity for both companies to explore how in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity technology continues to evolve, and what it takes to meet consumers’ increasing desire for innovation of information with minimal distraction,” said Chris Barman, head of electrical engineering at FCA.

TOYOTA MOTOR CORP.

Among the projects at Toyota Motor North America in Ann Arbor is a broad research initiative into how drivers interact with advanced vehicle technologies to ensure future cars safely interact within their environments.

Five separate projects with national universities including the University of Michigan focus on societal acceptance and will generate data-driven insights into the use of future vehicle technologies, such as automated systems.

While much work lies ahead to fully integrate the emerging modes of transportation with traditional ones and public transit, industry leaders agree an environment where they have historically operated independently is no longer sustainable.

“The period we are in promises to unlock as much value and impact lifestyles and landscapes as the automobile did in the very beginning,” GM’s Kosak said. “It is going to be transformative.” James Amend is a senior editor at WardsAuto in Southfield.

 

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.

Dan Ammann and Julia Steyn Leverage General Motors’ Legacy of Innovation to Lead in a Bold New Technological Era

General Motors Reimagining Personal Mobility

By Daniel Lai

Imagine a world with no cars parked on the sides of streets, minimal traffic congestion, and picking up a friend from the airport is as simple as ordering an autonomous ride from the safety and comfort of your sofa. That reality is not so far off, automakers say.

Catalyzed by the influx of new technology, Michigan’s OEMs are working feverishly on innovative ways to stay ahead of the mobility game, especially as the face of consumers gets younger and preferences shift away from vehicle ownership in favor of convenience.

Recognizing these changing trends, General Motors Co. exploded out of the gate with a flurry of product and partnership announcements this past year. The strategy was led by GM President Dan Ammann, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker who cut his teeth on Wall Street. That experience coupled with a keen forward-thinking prowess has proven to be a golden ticket for the automaker.

Julia Steyn and Dan Ammann introduce GM's new car-sharing service, Maven, which provides customers access to highly personalized, on demand mobility services.

Julia Steyn and Dan Ammann introduce GM’s new car-sharing service, Maven, which provides customers access to highly personalized, on demand mobility services.

In January, GM announced a $500 million investment in San Francisco-based Lyft to put an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles on the roads in the United States. The partnership leverages GM’s deep knowledge of autonomous technology and Lyft’s capabilities in providing a broad range of ride-sharing services. Three months later, GM and Lyft launched a short-term rental program called Express Drive, which provides vehicles to Lyft drivers for a weekly rate. The service rolled out in Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and Washington, D.C.

GM’s increased focus on personal mobility solutions signals a new culture and bold leadership shift to position Michigan’s automotive industry as a formidable leader in autonomous technology research and development.

“We want to make sure that we’re in position that when (customers) think about mobility, they think about us every single step of the way. We are investing very heavily to define the future of personal mobility in the areas of connectivity, car- and ride-sharing, autonomous driving, alternative propulsion, and of course, all of the new technologies that are required to underpin those developments,” Ammann said during keynote remarks at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference.

“That’s really important because as we look at consumer behavior, we see a very clear trend where customers are willing to wait for the right vehicles, for the right level of connectivity before they make their purchase decision, we’re seeing increasing evidence of that every day,” Ammann added.

In addition to the Lyft partnership, GM announced a collaboration with MobileEye to crowd-source advanced mapping data for self-driving cars, introduced the Chevrolet Bolt, the first long-range, consumer-friendly electric vehicle, and unveiled its personal mobility brand, Maven.

Currently in 13 markets throughout the United States, the car-sharing service provides access to highly personalized, on-demand vehicles. Maven customers use its app to search for and reserve a vehicle by location or car type and unlock the vehicle with their smartphone.

“With more than 25 million customers around the world projected to use some form of shared mobility by 2020, Maven is a key element of our strategy to changing ownership models in the automotive industry,” Ammann said.

The Maven team is made up of professionals from Google, Zipcar and Sidecar and led by former Alcoa vice president, Julia Steyn. The Detroiter recently sat down with Steyn to talk about Maven, the future of car-sharing, and GM and Detroit’s next steps in the new mobility era.

How would you describe a Maven user?

It is actually really interesting how Maven customers are very different from the traditional way how we sell cars. First of all, it is very simple because in traditional car sales, it is a one-time transaction and you really market a product. With Maven, we want as much repeat use and as often of a repeat use as possible. We are marketing an overall service and the experience to the customers. Just based on the numbers, Maven customers’ average age is 30 and the average income is above $80,000. We’re talking to the customers that we would not have had in the GM brand family. That’s where Maven is so additive to our traditional brands.

What makes Maven unique in the exploding next-generation mobility scene?

We are, as Maven, building on GM’s competitive strength. That comes first and foremost with the breadth of our portfolio. We have anything from Corvettes and the luxury vehicles and Escalades on one end, to the trucks. We are very fortunate that we can tailor the portfolio to our customers regionally.

Secondly, we obviously have the ability with the connection to the vehicle. We have been doing this with OnStar for a long time to create this very on-demand service. It is not only the app, it is the whole experience … how you interact through the phone and the app, and the same phone opens the vehicle and you kind of bring your whole digital life through what we have put through OnStar in the vehicle as well as the dedicated concierges who can curate anything from safety and finding directions to booking your restaurant or booking your hotel. They are specifically trained to interact with Maven customers.

We are also positioning vehicles where the demand is. Through our two services, Maven Home and Maven City, we track very closely whether these spots are the right ones. We understand where our Maven users are going and how to really tailor the services toward that. I believe that we are quite unique in elevating the whole car-sharing experience to a very different level.

Maven sits at the intersection of “traditional” automotive companies and next-generation mobility and technology firms. In your viewpoint, are traditional OEMs and suppliers ready for this transformation that is upon us?

It is happening as we speak. You kind of have to follow where the customer wants to go with that. I firmly believe that a company like GM has so many assets that are so crucial to the new space. First of all, looking traditionally at our scale, which we are able to do, we can finance the cars. We can obviously build the cars. We understand how to deal with insurance. We actually have been in the forefront of consumer marketing for over a hundred years. It comes in sort of a variety of innovation that has to happen, but the base is there, we are just doing it in a different way.

Technology is the table stakes right now. What is fascinating to me, what is happening in the industry right now in automotive, is a really big convergence of the technology that is just software and app creation with real assets. The consumers need both. They are not just consuming an app, they are consuming a service. They want something that is relevant to their lifestyle. That is why it is so important for us to take the Maven brand to be relevant to that lifestyle. We have customers who have taken Maven (vehicles) almost a hundred times in different geographical areas, so we want to be relevant. Where do they want to go? What do they want to see?

It is almost re-teaching this next generation how to interact with a vehicle in a fun way. The reality is, whether OEMs are ready for it or not, we are ready and we are very aggressively pursuing this strategy.

Major cities across the globe are competing to own next-generation mobility. Assess Detroit’s strengths and weaknesses in this competition.

I’m actually very excited about Detroit. It is clearly a story of revival and renaissance in a very young and modern way. If you look back at where Detroit has been, when you look a hundred years ago, it really was the industrial Silicon Valley. It is coming back. I actually strongly believe that it is important for Maven to ground itself in where we are, and Detroit just has this amazing energy not to give up and be really out there in trying new things. At some level, the city itself doesn’t have much to lose.

I think GM is also a bit like that. I’ve been with the company for close to five years and when I came it was the story of restructuring and survival. Now we are looking at a very different dialogue. I’m very thrilled. Frankly from a talent standpoint, our Maven team comes from all over the world. We speak 20-plus languages and between our team, we have more than 40 startups under our belts, so it is a very entrepreneurial team. Detroit has been an attractive place to come and work. We never lost a single candidate because we were in Detroit. People love the city.

The automotive industry has traditionally had a perception problem. The mobility industry offers technology to solve global issues. What can we do to change the old perceptions with millennials to attract more talent?

I think that Detroit is very much on the way there. I see the revival of some art, the revival of the food culture, and more companies that we have on the cutting edge, whether it is automotive or other industries. Real estate is dramatically changing Detroit and what has been happening; we are very linked with this. I think giving Detroit more credit is good. It needs to continue to be marketed as a destination — as a destination for travel and leisure, as a destination for new companies and new ideas. Nobody should be shy about putting a stake in the ground in that.

How important is it for the startup ecosystem to be in Detroit and around these automotive companies, and what can we do to foster that?

Personally, it has been a very fascinating experience for me to open and start a startup within a 100-year-old company. From the outside it might appear as a very daunting task. In reality, on every level of the corporation we have received tremendous support because I think it permeates not just the senior leadership team but also everybody who sees the industry that we are in the cusp of tremendous changes. People are excited to explore opportunities. In fact, most of the folks who supported our Maven startup did it not as part of their main job, but as something that they really wanted to put their fingerprint on.

I think getting the culture back, you have to move fast. You have to be able to experiment. You have to take ownership of what that looks like in a real commercial way. We at Maven are not about running experiments. We are running a new commercial business, and we are learning tremendous amounts through this and building very new capabilities for the company. I don’t know what can be more exciting. I think it is true for anybody who is going to start something new in Detroit.

What is next for Maven and General Motors?

This year our big push was to really launch a brand and get the exposure and the on the ground operation. We are very much happy with how the year went and how quickly we accomplished that. Next year we are going to be focused on growing our customer base and really deepening the relationships that we have developed throughout the country. A lot of exciting opportunities, a lot of exciting ways to grow.

What do you love most about Detroit and Michigan?

I definitely will not say the weather. I just like the attitude and the grit of the city and the energy and the vibe. I have seen that in New York, but many, many years ago when Brooklyn was hustling and bustling. Now I live downtown in Detroit and even in the past five years I have seen the amazing change in the restaurant scene and a change in who my neighbors have become; it is so cool. I just want to contribute to the growth of the city. I think anything from the art scene to the fashion scene, all of that is so honest and so raw and so sincere that you just have to be amazed in what happens next, so I’m watching.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber.