Spotlight: Michigan leads way in next revolution of transportation in U.S.

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-23 06:05:36|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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by Xinhua writer Tan Jingjing

DETROIT, the United States, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Detroit, a motor city whose past reminds us of the American Dream, has seen revitalization after economic and demographic decline in recent decades.

New constructions, innovative technologies, increasing population and advanced autonomous vehicle industry are accelerating Detroit's recovery, driving the state of Michigan to lead the way in next revolution of transportation in the United States.


Michigan leads the world in the development and integration of intelligent connected vehicles and was one of the first states to legalize self-driving vehicles on public roads.

The state has long been a world-wide automotive hub, not just for manufacturing, but for research, engineering, design, and testing.

Michigan is home to 27 assembly plants and more than 2,200 facilities that conduct automotive research, design, engineering, testing and validation, according to Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Currently, 73 percent of North American automotive research and development (R&D) takes place in Michigan and a total of 14 billion U.S. dollars are spent on R&D each year in the state, MEDC told Xinhua.

In Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan, free service of driverless shuttles has been provided to the public since July by May Mobility, the Ann Arbor-based startup.

The six-seat autonomous vehicles are staffed with an attendant and run at a top speed of 25 miles per hour, making a dozen stops along the 3.2-mile downtown bus route.

Over 11,000 riders have taken the autonomous shuttles up to now, co-founder and CEO of May Mobility Edwin Olson told Xinhua. The program aims to address congestion issues in a growing city and introduce alternative modes of transportation, he said.

In Detroit, the city's first network of electric vehicles (EVs) fast chargers was deployed to the public on Wednesday, enabling people to fast-charge their EVs in the downtown area and learn about the benefits of mobility technologies.

The four ChargePoint DC fast charger stations, the first-of-their-kind, were launched in Beacon Park in downtown city.

The initiative furthers the City of Detroit's downtown accessibility priority of improving traffic conditions and parking offerings for Detroit residents and visitors, Jeff Mason, CEO of MEDC, told Xinhua.

"The project helped build a set of pilots for the City of Detroit that were informed by both Detroiters and the private sector," said Joel Howrani Heeres, director of Office of Sustainability in the City of Detroit.


New technologies involving tools like robots, simulation softwares and augmented reality are boosting Michigan's innovation capability and changing its manufacturing future.

Robots have been applied in hospitals for drug delivery and farms for weeding.

Bedestrian, an Ann Arbor-based startup, developed its wheelchair-sized autonomous delivery vehicle, which is working at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn to transport pharmaceuticals from the pharmacy lab to cancer center.

Silicon Valley-based farm equipment startup FarmWise collaborated with Roush, a Michigan-based leading manufacturing and automotive company, to produce autonomous weeding robots.

By using high-precision weeding, the robotic farm hands can increase the yield of the crops by working day and night to remove unwanted plants and weeds.

"Michigan is well-known throughout the world for its manufacturing and automotive industries, the advanced technology expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing practices," Thomas Palomares, FarmWise co-founder and CTO said. "These are many of the key ingredients we need to manufacture and test our machines."

Michigan has rolled out new safety measures through software innovations to prevent collisions involving emergency vehicles on their routes to calls or at the scene.

Fire trucks, police cars and first aid vehicles equipped with the new technologies can now send alerts to nearby drivers through their smartphones and navigation apps, which will help ensure safe passage and reduce response time.

The new technologies also enable alerts between first responders and other approaching emergency, public safety and municipal vehicles, according to the City of Grand Rapids Fire Department.

Advanced warning devices imbedded in the new technologies, like the HAAS Alert, have shown to reduce the chances of collision by 60 percent to 90 percent, according to a pilot simulations study conducted at the University of Minnesota.

The Chicago-based HAAS Alert has been working with fire departments, police departments and highway patrols in 20 U.S. states to put the new technologies into use, the company's chief operating officer Noah Levens told Xinhua.


Located at the historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township in suburb Detroit, the American Center for Mobility (ACM) spans more than 500 acres, enables testing, safe validation and self-certification of connected and automated vehicle technology.

The ACM, funded by the state of Michigan, features real-road environment such as four-km highway loop, 215-meter curved tunnel, urban canyon and 41 intersecting points, and is equipped to enable a combination of driving conditions simulation, track testing and on-road testing.

"The ACM aims to bring auto companies together to address their challenges with new technologies and products, build an ecosystem and create opportunity zones for startups, research institutions, investors and fundings," ACM President and CEO Michael Noblett told Xinhua.

Professionals of automated vehicles at tech companies, auto industry and non-governmental agencies around the Michigan state are working together to combine experience, technical knowledge and skills to lead research and development projects, solve the most complex challenges facing the industry and lead next revolution of transportation of the United States.

Ford Motor Company has acquired the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station in Detroit to spur the city's rebirth around this icon of urban decay.

The automaker started renovation of the central station at the end of 2018, and remains on track to finish renovation of the structure by the end of 2022. It will be the anchor of an urban campus for the automaker's autonomous and electrified vehicle development teams.

"It's where the future will be built. We're going to have a corridor of mobility. The train station will be a spectacular building, and shared by the public," Christina Twelftree, a spokeswoman for Ford Motor Co., told Xinhua.

"We hope to invite partners from different countries to come in and jointly find solutions for future transportation," she said.