Mobility meets creativity at South by Southwest’s Michigan House

This month, a few of the Detroit region’s brightest minds in mobility will travel to Austin, Texas, to attend South by Southwest (SXSW). Long recognized as a multi-day music festival, SXSW is also an annual gathering for creative expression through music, culture, and art.

In Austin, a “pop-up activation space” known as Michigan House will host a session called Making the Future of Mobility, when thought leaders will discuss the tremendous change that next-generation mobility will foster. Among them will be Garry Bulluck, deputy chief of mobility innovation at the City of Detroit.

While every person potentially will experience change when we refocus our methods of moving ourselves, our goods, and our services, those who currently struggle with daily transportation could see the most fundamental shift in the way they get around, and therefore, in the way they live their lives.

“We are trying to solve challenges of people, in this time and place, who may choose not to drive, or whose economic circumstances do not allow them to drive,” says Bulluck. “We are rethinking how this traditional system of single-car travel can limit people and their opportunities. So it’s not just transportation, but social and economic mobility that we will be discussing.”

Optimistically, Bulluck is referring to the ease of exposing people to jobs, arts, culture, recreation, and health, all through the innovation of mobility.

Mobility innovators are forging ahead with a radically new model, disrupting a 100-year history of single-owner vehicle use. And traditional automotive manufacturers are keeping pace, if not leading the charge, in some key avenues of development.

“Our traditional car-centric model has impacted the larger way we live our lives. But if we take a step back and look, there has been a change in mobility-speak by our OEMs, with Ford and GM leading the discussion about what are other models of delivering services to people,” Bulluck says. “For the leaders whose day-to-day job is to sell people on the dream of driving a car to make the shift into discussions that focus on the fact that the way people will move in the next 15 to 20 years will not be a singular, loner approach to getting somewhere where they can make connections to others, it’s significant.”

Instead, those connections increasingly will be made long before the trip starts, through car-sharing services like Maven and Chariot, as innovators seek ways to intersect technology and new business models to move people more efficiently. “We are confronting the economic challenge of car access, or mobility as a service, to enhance the lives of the masses,” Bulluck says.
Bulluck and fellow panelists will ask some big questions at SXSW, all relevant to a better future through mobility, and Detroit’s role in that movement.

“We sit here with all this technology expertise and social activism with a rally cry around regional transit. Looking at our system, how do we prepare the Detroit region for the next 30 years? What does that look like?” Bulluck asks. “We need to start this conversation now and maximize the opportunities ahead. The technology that sits here is second to none, and we are engaging great minds and thinkers to solve the everyday issues in this region.”

SXSW is a great venue to spark discussions about how we look creatively at Detroit’s manufacturing prowess, and recognize the Detroit region’s leadership in mobility advancement.

“We have been a leader in manufacturing, and not just cars, but across a wide, diverse body of things. Here, we have innovation and creativity and new thought processes that are not just tied to traditional forms,” Bulluck says.
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