A wide-ranging public-private partnership is putting the automotive industry in Michigan in the pole position for the rollout of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation, what Michigan is doing to position itself as a leader in driverless car technology.
Steudle: Michigan is leveraging its position as the hub of the North American automotive industry to continue to lead the nation in CAV technology. Michigan identified CAV as a transformative technology that has the potential to not only dramatically improve the safety of roads, but also reduce congestion.
MDOT (Michigan Department of Transport) and the State of Michigan have partnered with OEMs, universities, and the federal government to pilot, research, and implement the technology needed to develop driverless vehicles. These partnerships helped with the creation of Mcity and ACM, globally competitive proving grounds for organizations in the CAV space. Building on the highest concentration of engineers and automotive R&D facilities, these proving grounds are where CAV technology will be advanced. Michigan is also providing the industry with a progressive regulatory environment, which allows the industry and researchers the protection and freedom they need to advance the technology.
AI: How has the legislation allowing driverless cars in the state helped further Michigan’s position?
Steudle: The legislation eliminated a “test only” restriction for use of CAV on public roadways. It supported the military and commercial trucking industry by allowing platooning vehicles to operate in the state. The legislature also allowed the operation of automated vehicle networks that can provide service directly to consumers. Standards included in the SAVE Act also enhanced support and protection for the manufacturers and mechanics in the state. A bold step that signals Michigan’s commitment to this technology is reflected in the legislatively enacted Council on Future Mobility. The Council comprises some of the top minds in this field, each appointed by the governor and tasked with providing recommendations to the Legislature on actions needed to continue to keep Michigan at the front of the CAV industry. Lastly, the legislation created the American Center for Mobility (ACM), which will be a world class proving ground providing researchers and manufacturers with the opportunity to test technology often in real world conditions.
AI: How well has the PlanetM initiative taken off in the one year since its inception?
Steudle: PlanetM represents the collective mobility efforts across the state of Michigan around the technologies and services that enable people and goods to move about. Since its inception around 18 months ago, PlanetM has grown into the focal point of Smart Mobility technologies within Michigan.
A number of activities are currently underway involving multiple partnerships developed to showcase the technologies and services keeping Michigan at the forefront of research, development and deployment of mobility technologies. MDOT has been able to test and spotlight a number of innovative connected and automated vehicle projects and systems that highlight the continued support of the industry as an infrastructure owner. This includes showcasing Connected Vehicle Safety applications and fixed infrastructure in support of automated vehicle operations. The PlanetM Landing Zone, a 65-desk space funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Detroit Regional Chamber, was implemented, offering a selection of startups and larger companies with resources tailored to the automated, shared and electric vehicle sectors.
AI: How would you describe the public-private partnership in smart mobility solutions?
Steudle: Public-private partnerships are critical to the industry’s continued growth. Public organizations such as the government are necessary in allowing technologies to be tested and operated on public facilities. The government also has the task of ensuring these technologies are being implemented in a safe manner. Private industry has a responsibility to build products that meet customers’ needs and expectations, while ensuring they are done in a safe and responsible manner, educating the public on functionality and benefits.
Some examples of public-private partnerships include collaborative testing of on-road technologies between the mobility technology industry and MDOT, and the formation of the Council on Future Mobility ensuring both public and private perspectives are accounted for within the current Michigan legislation. In each one of these partnerships, the public and private entities are able to communicate and share knowledge that allows for the safe and effective deployment of these technologies.
AI: Could this initiative provide a blueprint for others looking at autonomous vehicle technologies?
Steudle: Yes, MDOT and the State of Michigan feel that these initiatives could be utilized as a blueprint for other jurisdictions looking to support automated vehicle technologies. Developing partnerships with companies in the automated vehicle space, and understanding the needs of these technologies from an infrastructure perspective, is a critical component of their continued development.
While MDOT can develop partnerships and allow for structured testing of these technologies, the current legislative framework of each individual local municipality, county, or state will impact the ability for these technologies to be tested and operated on each jurisdictional authority’s roadways. So, a first critical step in supporting automated vehicle technologies is to understand how the laws and regulations within each location impact on the ability for these technologies to be developed, tested and operated.
The State of Michigan believes the current automated vehicle laws implemented within the state, are supportive of these technologies being safely tested and operated, and could be looked at as model for other locations to review and apply as appropriate.
AI: How have tech companies and automotive manufacturers responded to the Michigan government’s initiatives?
Steudle: In general, tech companies and automotive manufacturers have responded favorably. MDOT has been very active in deploying connected vehicle infrastructure and applications to support the testing and operations of connected vehicle technologies in Michigan. This includes OEMs, automotive suppliers, technology companies and universities. These infrastructure assets have been utilized by a number of parties for real-world testing, and have proven to be very beneficial to developing partnerships on cooperative initiatives within the State.
Also, the State of Michigan has enacted into law a number of public acts that allow for the safe testing and operations of automated vehicles throughout the State. Michigan has a long-standing history of advanced vehicle technology testing on Michigan roadways, and the newly enacted laws allow for automated vehicle technologies to be tested in a similar framework, with clear roles and responsibilities of the government and testers of these automated vehicle technologies. This legislative framework has generally been well received and is perceived as favorable for fostering the continued testing and development of these technologies.
AI: What investment has the state made to support investment in CAV technology?
Steudle: The State of Michigan has continued investment in supporting infrastructure, facilities, and technologies that continue the growth of the automated and connected vehicle industries in Michigan. These investments include Mcity, the American Center for Mobility (ACM), and Connected Vehicle infrastructure policies. These investments have allowed MDOT to remain at the forefront of understanding how infrastructure impacts the safe operation of the technologies.
ACM will allow for safe testing of the technologies, helping support the development of voluntary standards by the automotive industry for automated vehicles. ACM is also being supported by a larger investment from private industry to continue its growth and implementation of a real-world, large-scale testing facility. MDOT has also made policy decisions to support the continued rollout of connected vehicle infrastructure and applications in Michigan including the decision that all MDOT signal upgrades from this point forward will be connected vehicle enabled. This allows for the continued development of a number of connected vehicle safety applications being tested on Michigan roads by OEMs and suppliers.