Michigan is a hub for innovation and always has been. We became the birthplace of the automotive industry when Detroit put the world on wheels more than a century ago, and today we’re proud to be “Planet M” – the epicenter of mobility.
That’s why nearly every major North American auto company has a large presence in our state and why we’re home to the highest concentration of engineers in the nation and 375 automotive research and development centers. Overall, more than 70% of U.S. automotive R&D happens right here in Michigan.
But that’s not all. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the nation in connected and automated vehicle projects. We’re first in patents relating to navigation and smart mobility, and we were the first state in the nation to legalize self-driving vehicles, including ride-sharing services, on public roads. Michigan also boasts the largest deployment of freeway and surface street vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure technology. Because Michigan is home to an all-weather environment, which is critical in testing autonomous technologies, we have a research edge that we are pleased to take advantage of. Michigan schools have specialized programs to focus on automotive technology and design, such as the K-12 program Square One, community college programs like those at Washtenaw Community College, and university programs at schools including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University.
When you look at our state’s rich automotive history and leadership in global mobility, R&D and manufacturing, it’s easy to see why Michigan is the perfect home for auto manufacturers. We intend to keep it that way as the automotive industry transforms into the mobility industry. The automotive industry has long been important to Michigan’s economy, providing billions of dollars in investment and creating thousands of jobs. And as vehicle and transportation technologies continue to evolve in remarkable ways, our state will continue to shape the way the world moves.
Planet M is one way we are leading the next generation of mobility. This exciting initiative seeks to elevate Michigan as the hub of mobility innovations, leading to more business investment and jobs in the state. The campaign’s tagline – “Michigan. Where big ideas in mobility are born.” – represents our mission to grow high-profile business sectors, including the technologies and services that will enable Michigan to pave the way for the future of connected and autonomous vehicles, transportation and mobility technology.
As residents change the way they live, travel and use services, many of the technologies that are changing the transportation industry will be conceptualized, tested, and created in Michigan. We are now home to two permanent and purpose-built autonomous vehicle testing sites – the only facilities of their kind in the nation.
Mcity, a 32-acre site that opened in 2015, simulates urban and suburban environments to test new safety features for connected and autonomous vehicles. The American Center for Mobility, a 335-acre site at the former Willow Run bomber plant location, had its official groundbreaking in 2016 and will provide additional testing and validation resources for the industry, including higher speeds and interaction with rail and flight. What’s more, the Center will be available to private industry, government, standards bodies and academia. It will serve as a technology hub, allowing companies to lease office space, garages and other amenities. There also is the potential for additional economic investment by companies looking to expand or build new facilities close to the testing ground, fueling new economic activity and creating more and better jobs across the state.
To continue this momentum and growth, we’re committed to developing, attracting, and connecting talented workers with jobs. As a state and a nation, we have to remind young people that the automotive research, production and maintenance industries are full of exciting and rewarding careers.
In addition to Michigan’s universities and colleges with nationally ranked undergraduate engineering programs and auto-focused programs at the post-secondary level, Michigan’s Going PRO campaign seeks to help students, parents and educators become more aware of the choices available to further their education in ways outside of a four-year college degree. Skilled talent is an important factor when job providers in the auto industry look to grow and locate, and Going PRO seeks to change outdated perceptions of professional trades and promote the value of career technical education to help young professionals secure these jobs.
It’s my hope that Michigan’s support for high-tech innovators and testing facilities – as well as the commitments from companies like Fiat Chrysler Automotive, General Motors, Toyota, and Ford to expand their production, research and testing operations in Michigan – will encourage other companies to locate and bring their products here. We are second-to-none when it comes to automotive and technological innovation, and we remain committed to making sure that stays true for generations to come.
Author Bio: Rick Snyder is Michigan’s 48th Governor, taking office in 2011. Prior to that, Snyder worked at accounting firm PwC (formerly Coopers & Lybrand) and at Gateway Computers as president and COO. He later returned to Michigan to cofound an Ann Arbor-based venture capital fund. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan.