Detroit and southeast Michigan may be the automotive capital of the world but as the concept of Mobility as a Service takes hold, our region is in danger of losing its grip on the industry it created to cities and regions investing in companies and education centered on advanced vehicle technology and software development.
That was the sobering theme of an enlightening panel discussion between experts in the field during July’s DBusiness Breakfast, of which Franco PR is a sponsor.
Moderated by DBusiness editor R.J. King, panel members included Dave Andrea, Principal at PlanteMoran, Jessica Robinson, Executive Director at the Michigan Mobility Institute, Jim Cleland, Shareholder at Brinks Gilson & Lione and Jon Rimanelli, CEO, Detroit Aircraft and ASX.
The concept of mobility as a service goes beyond catching a ride through Uber or Lyft. In the future it will include the use of self-driving, or semi-autonomous vehicles to deliver food and packages to individuals and business, transporting disabled or others not able to drive to stores or appointments and beyond that, driverless trucks delivering freight across the country.
Detroit Aircraft’s Jon Rimanelli noted as traffic gridlock worsens, calling it a “mobility crisis, mobility as a service will extend, literally upwards, using, perhaps vertical launching five passenger planes transporting them up to 150 miles at 65 miles per hour.
To put it lightly, “mobility is changing our world,” declared Jessica Robinson.
It also changing the automotive industry from one that has long been heavy on mechanical and manufacturing innovation to one that is increasingly dependent on software and technology expertise and innovation.
Jim Cleland warned that Detroit-based automakers are in a catch-up mode as they partner with companies in California’s Silicon Valley and elsewhere that specialize in software and advanced tech development. “We need to keep technology here,” he said.
Dave Andrea echoed those thoughts declaring, “the competition if coming up to speed fast because of partnerships.”
Cleland noted even among high tech companies, there’s a pitched battle over ownership of innovations, noting, “right now there are massive wars over patents and technologies.”
There’s also a massive war, of sorts over talent as Detroit’s automakers fight to convince the best and brightest software and advanced technology engineers and experts to join their teams.
Making the job even more difficult is the fact that other cities also see the opportunity to play a role in the mobility as a service trend and are proving to be very competitive developing and promoting local high tech companies vying for a piece of the action.
“Like it or not, other regions are coming after us,” said Jessica Robinson. “It starts with the talent and commitment to succeed.”
The good news, the panel agreed, is our region is making strong moves to cultivate and attract that kind of talent and expertise but must work even harder to stave off competition from outside the region.
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Tina Sullivan is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Franco. Contact Tina at Sullivan@franco.com.