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AutoMobili-D: Connecting with the future

At NAIAS, Pure Michigan Business Connect matches start-up tech companies with auto companies, suppliers and financiers; demand for ‘connections’ grows dramatically

In the splashy international automotive industry spotlight commonly known as the North American International Auto Show, the notion of “first-ever” is commonly bandied to describe the latest trends or “big deal” related to the newest gizmo, design or model.

But this year, “first-ever” is truly an aptly dramatic reference to unprecedented meetings held among tech startups, financiers, automakers, suppliers and university researchers that could lay the groundwork for the next chapter in transportation – the autonomous vehicle and mobility revolution.

Leading up to Saturday’s public NAIAS opening, many of those businesses and entrepreneurs exploring the unfolding prospects of the autonomous driving and mobility world will find a clear vision of that future at AutoMobili-D, an expansive display of the most compelling autonomous-driving related high-tech exhibitors in the world.

If all goes well, the future of mobility just might be shaped by connections made at the show.

During the next several days, more than 400 meetings will be held to bring together an increasing number of entrepreneurs, fascinated financiers and a range of auto industries insiders. The meetings coordinated and promoted by Pure Michigan Business Connect (along with Tech Stars) have far exceeded expectations, and point to the sense of urgency flooding the market for autonomous vehicle technology. 

Many automakers, OEMs and Tier One suppliers are aggressively searching for new ideas and products to further compete in the expanding mobility space. Participants in the meetings include Ford, Daimler and AM General, Magna, Lear and Intel.

"No doubt large corporates are looking to find the next great startup so they can differentiate themselves as autonomous driving hits Level 4 in the next few years," Trevor Pawl, vice president of MEDC's PlanetM, an umbrella term that refers to the wide range of mobility initiative supported by the state. 

“We’re seeing intense interest in e-mobility, smart cities and ride sharing products, which all have a place in the ‘mobility business models’ of automakers,” he said.
The success of this year’s match meetings shows PMBC is taking networking to a new level at a venue where “making connections” is partly an art, and partly a prerequisite for survival.

“The match meeting platforms add high value to companies probing for opportunities in the emerging autonomous vehicle market,” said Bobby Chasnis, development and operations manager for PMBC.

"While we weren’t anticipating such an overwhelming response, we’re not surprised so many companies are taking advantage of making connections,” he said. “The AutoMobili-D venue provides an ideal backdrop to make connections with an eye on the future.”

At this year’s NAISA, more than ever, the focus of Michigan’s automotive future is on mobility.

And much is at stake.

In the state that put the world on wheels, Michigan is in an intense competition to claim the mantle as the global capital of the autonomous vehicle revolution. Not only is the state home to the North American automotive industry, Michigan has the world’s first and most comprehensive proving ground to certify autonomous vehicles at the American Center for Mobility in Willow Run.

During the past two years, Michigan has been in the forefront among U.S. states for passing laws that allow for autonomous vehicle and infrastructure testing on public roads. In addition, few other places in the world can boast the range of mobility assets, research and development facilities and the building blocks for the automotive future.

“We’ll follow-up on these meetings and track whether the connections lead to contracts,” said MEDC’s Pawl. “Providing these match meetings is essential in creating a mobility ecosystem that fosters more startups and more opportunities to expand businesses in Michigan.”

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