The conversation around autonomous mobility has increased rapidly in recent years, and that trend will only continue as OEMs add higher levels of technology to their vehicles. As the trend towards autonomous, electric and shared mobility solutions continues, there are many companies in Southeastern Michigan driving the industry forward.  

According to Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) director Trevor Pawl, technological innovation is driven by many factors, including environmental concerns, changing lifestyles and the arrival of the “Internet of Things” that allows all manner of connectivity among everyday devices.

“When you look at the next 10 years, electric vehicle sales are expected to pass internal combustion engine sales by 2030,” Pawl says. “Software will represent more than 50 percent of vehicle (technology) by 2030. Autonomous vehicles are expected to take off later this decade with over 50 percent of new vehicle production being at least partially autonomous.”

Since the earliest days of the auto industry, Michigan has been on the leading edge of innovation and growth. That trend has continued in recent years, particularly in the area of testing and validation. According to MICHauto, Michigan has more U.S. Department of Transportation connected vehicle deployments than any other state, with 14 currently operational or planned. Specifically, the Detroit region leads the nation with a mix of private and public proving grounds, road initiatives, and CAV investments.

One significant player in the autonomous testing space is Argo AI, a self-driving technology company with headquarters in Pittsburgh and an engineering and testing center in Detroit.  Argo is partnering with Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen on the automaker’s own mobility research and development endeavors, building the software, hardware, maps and cloud-support infrastructure necessary for autonomous vehicles.

For Argo, Michigan plays a key role in the company’s testing and development planning.

In a case study featured in DBusiness’ Michigan: At The Intersection Of Mobility And Innovation whitepaper, Argo’s director of Communications Alan Hall shared some of the reason’s for the company’s investment in Michigan.

“Our presence in Michigan has enhanced our ability to collaborate with Ford and key suppliers, as well as other mobility groups, local leaders and community members, to understand how self-driving technology can improve cities around the country,” said Hall.

Argo’s Allen Park engineering center offered close proximity to Ford’s product development campus in Dearborn, as well as the self-driving business development center in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. This proximity allows for close collaboration between the Argo and Ford teams as they integrated the Argo self-driving system into Ford vehicles.

Additionally, Argo tests their self-driving technology on many roads in the Detroit area – a critical part of the validation process.

“Testing in the Detroit area allows us to learn how our self-driving system operates in yet another environment and varied weather conditions,” Hall explained.  “For instance, the Motor City really earns its name by offering an astounding diversity of road types. Some Detroit streets are wide and can often have unmarked lanes, presenting our vehicles with the challenge of having to reason through how

to navigate while predicting what other drivers may do so we don’t cause unnecessary congestion. Other residential streets are narrow two-lane roads with cars parked on either side. Combine that with overhanging tree branches, which we don’t often see in other urban environments, and you’ve got a very dynamic situation. Add in pop-up construction that’s occurring all over the city, and you’ve got a diverse, condensed training ground that really informs our development efforts.”

Dr. Brett Browning, Argo’s Executive Vice President of Product Development and Chief Technology Officer spoke with The Ground Truth in late 2020 and highlighted the importance of testing in multiple cities to capture as many scenarios as possible. 

To read the full Argo AI conversation, or to learn more about Michigan’s place at the intersection of mobility and innovation, download the DBusiness whitepaper here.