When we think about automated vehicles revolutionizing our transportation system, the question is no longer how, but when. Industry analyst IHS Automotive predicts that nearly 76 million automated vehicles will be sold globally between now and 2035. Meanwhile, automotive and tech industry executives believe this technology could be deployed, and widely adopted, by consumers in the United States even sooner.
The average family vehicle now has nearly 100 million lines of computer code, making it the most advanced piece of personal technology a person can own. This number continues to grow as more “smart” technology is introduced with features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, automatic braking, and self-parking. These driver-assistance systems are simply the initial ripples of future technology over the next five to 20 years.
Mobility as a Service
North America’s largest automakers and the supplier network located in Michigan are focused on developing automated technologies, and the entire mobility-as-a-service concept; General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Toyota have recognized and are starting to capitalize on this trend, having partnered with a ride-sharing or ride-sharing-technology company.
Through a few taps on a smart phone, individuals needing a ride can have a driver pull a car right up to their location. Automakers envision a service that will, ultimately, operate alongside the retail sales of their vehicles.
Ford invested $18.2 million in Pivotal, a cloud-based software company, to enhance its software development capabilities and help shift into self-driving vehicle technology. GM invested $500 million in the ride-hailing company Lyft Inc., and began developing a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle capable of picking up passengers on its own. Toyota has also established a partnership with Uber.
FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is partnering with Google to create a fleet of 100 self-driving minivans. As part of the agreement, the vehicles will be built at a metropolitan Detroit plant with an engineering team from both companies managing the project.
Advancing Automated Driving
The industry’s supplier base is also creating components and technology to advance automated driving.
Delphi Automotive made headlines with the longest automated drive in North America — from San Francisco to New York City — three months after its self-driving vehicle was introduced at CES 2015. At CES 2016, Delphi introduced advanced software and hardware, allowing its self-driving vehicle to communicate through Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) and cellular. These vehicles are capable of communicating with other vehicles, with infrastructure from street signs to traffic lights, and even with pedestrians, allowing a “systems-approach” to transportation. The cross-country trek also garnered a flood of interest from international media, interested in telling the story of how self-driving cars will soon become an essential part of all our lives.
But the industry will also be charged with establishing and executing strict validation and verification protocols to ensure safety. These will likely take shape through a voluntary standards approach, which could then inform federal safety regulations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently establishing operational guidance, and has reached out to work with state officials, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to create policies for self-driving vehicles. This safety validation and certification will require a three-pillared approach: on-road evaluation, repeatable and reproducible track testing, and integrated full vehicle/environment simulation.
Michigan, where a large swath of these technologies are being developed and tested, is among eight states with laws governing automated vehicles. The Michigan Department of Transportation is actively working with state legislators to broaden the language of the state’s current law to expand the criteria for automated vehicle use on public roads. Once approved, automakers will have more access to test automated technology, and they’ll be able to operate fleets of on-demand automated vehicles that can form the backbone of a mobility network.
This forward thinking will accommodate the escalating interest of Michigan’s automotive and tech industries — as well as foreign and out-of-state companies looking to set up research and development facilities in Michigan — to develop self-driving technology for the real world.
The industry will also be charged with establishing and executing strict validation and verification protocols
to ensure safety.
In addition to this package of bills, Michigan’s transportation officials are working to upgrade the state’s infrastructure to support connected vehicle technology. Southeast Michigan is home to the largest network of freeway and surface street vehicle-to-infrastructure technology in the U.S. Developed by MDOT in partnership by General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and the University of Michigan, the network, once completed, will span 120 miles along interstates I-96, I-696, I-94, and U.S. 23. Michigan’s Planet M campaign, led by a coalition of state and industry players, embodies the state’s leadership in reinventing the transportation industry.
At the American Center for Mobility (ACM), we’re building the nation’s largest facility for reproducibly and reliably testing connected and automated vehicle technology. ACM will be a real-world test environment that not only takes advantage of the state’s four seasons, but also mimics various road types, terrains, and use-case and driving scenarios.
Sitting on 335 acres of the former World War II Willow Run B-24 bomber factory site built by Henry Ford, this advanced automated technology testing and product development center will continue that history of innovation. ACM is a nonprofit joint initiative by the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan, and Ann Arbor SPARK.
On the Willow Run site, R&D teams can use standardized roads, traffic control devices, communication networks, and simulation tools to validate and ensure the technology is safe to be used anywhere in the world. The site will also include laboratories for research, garages for testing teams, and significant office and meeting space for convening standards bodies and other activities. Our goal is to expand the potential for business development and enable advanced auto technology development.
The center will also operate in coordination with the acclaimed Mcity facility in Ann Arbor, operated by U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center, which opened in 2015 and continues to be in high demand.
Just as Detroit became the birthplace of the global automotive industry at the turn of the 20th century, and later the flathead V8 and futuristic tailfin design, Michigan’s automotive industry is again leading a renaissance of 21st century innovation. As more companies develop automated-driving technology, Michigan has become a prime venue for business to develop and innovate, from its talent to its institutional automotive expertise and facilities.