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Auto and Tech Converge: Maintaining Michigan’s Mobility Leadership

Not since the early days of the Model T has Michigan been presented with such an unprecedented economic opportunity. The automotive industry is rapidly converging with new technology, giving way to an emerging $5.4 trillion mobility industry. Given its unparalleled automotive assets, Michigan has become the global mobility leader, but maintaining this into the future will require collaboration between startups, established companies, government leaders and Silicon Valley.

Today’s panel, Convergence of Auto and Tech: Adapting Michigan’s Economy Amid Unprecedented Change, brought to the forefront the numerous strengths, as well as challenges, Michigan has in retaining and growing its leadership in the next-generation mobility sector.

While certainly new, mobility technology is no longer a thing of the distant future. Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, shared that the automaker will soon be tripling its fleet of autonomous vehicles.

“We are all talking about this major crossroads with big things happening in the automotive sector…We are all in when it comes to the smart vehicle economy,” said Washington.

Despite the technological advancements, obstacles still remain. While Washington predicted that fully autonomous vehicles, referred to as “Level 4” technology, would be possible by the end of the decade, policy-making could cause delays. Sen. Gary Peters agreed, but stressed that he is working with congressional colleagues to address national insurance and cybersecurity standards.

In addition, all of the panelists agreed that despite the state’s immense strengths in mobility, more work needed to be done to connect what has become a siloed business culture. This is where learning to leverage strategic insights and partnerships in Silicon Valley could be helpful to Michigan companies and the state’s larger mobility ecosystem.

“It’s not Silicon Valley versus Detroit. One plus one equals three. Bridges are being built,” said Techstars Mobility Managing Director Ted Serbinski.

Sponsored by Ford Motor Co., the unique panel brought together representatives from the government, automotive and startup sectors, including Sen. Peters, Serbinksi, Washington and Lear Corp. President and CEO Matthew Simoncini.