Planet M: Michigan’s global campaign to become center for mobility

Ryan Gajewski

Friday, June 3, 2016

No boundary – geographical, economical or technological – can reign in Michigan’s ambition when it comes to future possibilities of the state’s bedrock industry.

No boundary – geographical, economical or technological – can reign in Michigan’s ambition when it comes to future possibilities of the state’s bedrock industry.

Announced this week at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, Planet M is a bold, new campaign celebrating Michigan as an international hub of mobility innovation, drawing on the state’s proud manufacturing and entrepreneurial legacy. The timely Planet M campaign promises a clear vision on how to transform the automotive and transportation industries – currently undergoing sweeping technological changes – over the next few decades.

“Michigan’s existing automotive ecosystem and solid infrastructure has laid the groundwork for innovative companies and enterprising thinkers to come here and shape the future of mobility,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “This state has been a stronghold of great ideas and Planet M is part of that continuing effort, and reflects the uniquely Michigan entrepreneurial spirit.”

The entities behind the Planet M campaign consist of an informal coalition from the public and private sectors along with governmental organizations and academic institutions. Partners include MEDC, Michigan Department of Transportation, MICHAuto and Business Leaders for Michigan.

Michigan has already been grabbing headlines with news of public and private investments, all of which are aimed at defining what the future of transportation will look like. Among the latest high-profile investments is Google announcing their plans to occupy a 53,000-square-foot facility in Novi to develop self-driving vehicle technology. The Silicon Valley-based tech giant and FCA US also recently inked a deal to build 100 hybrid Pacifica minivans with automated technology.

“When you consider three-quarters, or about $8 billion, of the auto industry’s research and development money is spent in Michigan, that means there is a lot of action to determine what transportation will look like in the future and it’s all in a single state,” said Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of the state automotive office.

Another development is the proposed American Center for Mobility, a 335-acre site at the former Willow Run facility that will provide testing and validation resources for autonomous vehicles. The center will be similar to existing OEM test facilities, allowing automakers and suppliers to test technologies and ensure vehicles can operate safely on public roads. Once completed, it will make Michigan the home of two such permanent purpose-built test facilities with the 32-acre Mcity site that is currently operating a busy schedule in Ann Arbor.

"The focus at MDOT is getting travelers to their destinations and goods to market as safely and efficiently as possible," said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. "We see connected and autonomous vehicle technology as a major innovation that will disrupt the future and Planet M brings it all together in one place."

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“Michigan has always been where the major players in the global auto industry go for access to top talent and resources. With Planet M, you’ll be able to see just how much is taking place here,” said Kerrigan.

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