Every 18 months MICHauto, a key initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber focused on promoting, retaining and growing the automotive and mobility industry – produces a “Michigan is Automobility,” report. The report illustrates the “impact and reach of the state in the auto industry,” says director for MICHauto, Katelyn Davis.

The latest report was released March 26.

The state’s mobility ecosystem plays a starring role in the new report, especially as the industry moves from traditional engineering and manufacturing to one more focused on wireless and self-driving vehicles and other auto-mobility solutions such as shared driving. The strength of this unique ecosystem — manufacturers, entrepreneurs, higher education institutions, skilled workforce, versatile supply chain, and research assets — is evident in the numbers.

Katelyn Davis is director for MICHauto.
Katelyn Davis is director for MICHauto.

The report is used in a variety ways, Davis says. But a primary use is for economic development – reinforcing the notion that Michigan is the destination for automotive and mobility business – now and in the future. “The report shows the viability of the automotive industry and just how large it really is to people who aren’t familiar with the state.”

Politicians get in the game, too. “In the past, Gov. Snyder used the report when he traveled outside the state and around the world to reinforce our global impact.”

Are people surprised by the data in the report, or are they already familiar with Michigan’s expertise in the auto industry?

“A little bit of both. People are not surprised by how large Michigan’s footprint and leadership in the core automotive industry is … but they are pleasantly surprised by our leadership on the tech side of it.”

Leadership that includes “the increased presence of educational institutions getting involved in that space,” Davis notes, such as Mcity, the autonomous vehicle testing facility at the University of Michigan; Washtenaw Community College’s Advanced Transportation Center; and Center for Advanced Automotive Technology at Macomb Community College.

While Michigan ranks number one in the nation for engineering talent concentration, the report also shows “the importance of … investing in programs that will develop a healthy talent pipeline,” Davis continues, a chief goal of the Michigan Mobility Institute (MMI).

In addition to enhancing the skill sets of both executives and skilled trades people in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and cyber security, MMI is partnering with universities to offer a new Master of Mobility degree starting in 2021.

The cover of the Michigan is Automobility Report was created by student illustrator Tyler Osgood from College for Creative Studies.
The cover of the Michigan is Automobility Report was created by student illustrator Tyler Osgood from College for Creative Studies.

Another highlight is the $20 million in funding earmarked by the state of Michigan for investment in next-generation mobility during the 2019 fiscal year.

“Michigan is a big hotbed for pilot programs,” says Davis. Ann Arbor startup May Mobility, for instance, partnered with Bedrock last year to provide autonomous vehicles that shuttle employees from parking sites to offices, events and other destinations in downtown Detroit – the “first commercial deployment of independent autonomous vehicles on public streets in any urban core in America,” according to a 2018 press release. Car sharing initiatives such as Ford’s Go Ride and GM’s Maven are also part of the ever-changing mobility landscape.

“I come from a [traditional] car family, but … when I share my work with them, it leads to very interesting conversations,” says Davis, who used Maven on a recent business trip to Los Angeles. “That’s what makes Michigan a great place for this leadership to come out of, because so many people are passionate about cars and the auto industry and have been able to see the transportation evolution.”

Adds Davis: “What we hope people will gather from the report [the cover of which was created by College for Creative Studies student illustrator Tyler Osgood] is that Michigan is more than just an engineering and manufacturing hub. We are also working on future technologies that will change the way people and the world move around … and a lot of that innovation is being developed [right] here in Michigan.”

By the numbers from Michigan is Automobility:

  • No 1: in the nation for engineering talent concentration.
  • 19: colleges and universities in Michigan have nationally-ranked undergraduate engineering programs
  • 6th: in the nation for number of inventors
  • 10,000+: patents issued in 2017
  • 115+: roadside units for connected vehicles
  • $500 million: more in foreign direct investments were announced in 2016
  • V2I: Michigan leads the country in vehicle-to-interface deployment, and has plans for more than 350 miles of V2I-compatible infrastructure.
  • No 1: in the nation for numbers and concentration of mechanical engineers, plastic and metal model makers, industrial engineers, commercial and industrial designers.