Mobility Moments Podcast: Glenn Stevens, MICHauto

This month, thought leaders will gather at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island for the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference. A pillar of the conference is "Strengthen Michigan's readiness for the disruption that next-generation mobility will create for industry and society."

So what key conversations surround this ambitious goal?

We've come an incredibly long way very quickly in the past few years. Yes, it's a very important pillar of the Policy Conference because the policy conversation has to continue. So, the role that policy will play, the role that insurance and regulation and society and cultural shifts need to occur with regards to how autonomous vehicles will be deployed, how automated and connected vehicle infrastructure has to play, the role of big data, and really important to this is how our people needed to evolve from a talent in the workforce development in a digital economy. Those are the critical conversations that are going to continue, and the policy conference is absolutely a unique forum for us to be able to do that.

That was Glenn Stevens, executive director at MICHauto. He's also the vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives with the Detroit Regional Chamber. He's our guest today on Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast. This episode is sponsored by MICHauto and Destination Detroit. I'm your host, Claire Charlton.

Glenn Stevens, good morning and welcome to Mobility Moments Podcast. It's so good to have the opportunity to talk with you.

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity.

Now Glenn, you are the executive director of MICHauto. Can you explain to us what MICHauto is and what it does?

I sure can. So MICHauto is actually formed a little over 10 years ago, and it was formed as a grassroots volunteer-based organization, was actually started by an individual named Tom Manganello who works with the law firm called Warner Norcross & Judd, and he's actually the chairman of MICHauto to this day. It was his idea and a few of us thought together that we needed an auto industry association that spoke for, advocated, and really acted as a connective tissue for the industry which at the time, and still to this day, is the most important industry in the history of the state, and hopefully for the future of the state. So MICHauto serves as an industry association for the automotive and mobility industries. It's also a very, very important part of the Detroit Regional Chamber's Economic Development portfolio, so we wear two hats, and that's what we do.

Okay, so when people think about mobility, they think about tech innovation, and then their minds sometimes go off to thinking about Silicon Valley. But there are reasons that Detroit is a major player in mobility innovation. What are your thoughts on this?

Well that's true. When you look at Detroit and you look at Michigan, and the 100-plus years history of innovation here, we are a city, in a region, in a state that literally put the world on wheels, and we all know that, it's been part of our DNA, it's been part of our culture, it's been part of the ups and downs of our history and our economy. But the industry is transforming, and the reason that the industry and transportation are transforming is because of this rise of this word, "mobility." It wasn't too long ago when we used the word mobility in a very important sense, and we still do, and that meant more transportation in the ways of for people to move who might have challenges with disabilities or things like that. That's still very important today, but the word mobility today has become very broad.

To paraphrase what Ted Serbinski from Techstars says, it's really how goods, data, and people move more efficiently in a society, in a seamless manner. The reason that this is important is because there are forces, megatrends, which are scientific and certain, which are impacting the globe. Hyper organization, scarcity of resources, demographic shifts, people living longer, people who can't move or is mobile for one reason or another they're wanting to move. So the rise of this means that transportation's changing, and with that comes an economic opportunity and also a potential gold mine for companies that innovate and invest, which is why you see Silicon Valley's importance in this innovation space.

We don't look at it as a us versus them, in fact we look at it as this is a very global industry, and when we look at the industry, we look at how can Detroit partner with, how can we work to integrate solutions for mobility around the world with other regions and other places that innovate? So yes, Silicon Valley has risen in this conversation, but so have Stuttgart, and Shanghai, and Seoul as much as Detroit.

Excellent, so can you explain why it's so important for the Detroit region to be a leader in bringing next generation mobility technology to market?

Absolutely, and it really boils down to this, it's both an opportunity and a necessity. When you look at opportunity and this means economic opportunity, whether you're a private corporation or those that are trying to develop and attract and retain jobs, and build an economy like we are here in Michigan.

Look at the automotive industry today, the global automotive industry is estimated to be about a $3 trillion industry. But if you look into the future, and you can pick the year, and you can pick the number, but let's go out to about 2030. It's projected that personal mobility in a shared use economy, this is the way again I'm back to how goods, data, and services and people are going to need to move more efficiently in this world, that's projected to be a $10 trillion industry. So you can see how the stakes are high for regions or cities, or states that want to play in this space, companies that want to innovate in this space.

The other reason for us is that it's a necessity. It's a necessity because I would argue, and we would argue, that the greatest platform for diversification that we have for our economy in Michigan is the one we already have to build off of that. So for many years, and many decades, people said we need to diversify from the automotive industry. I would say now is an opportunity for us to diversify from the automotive industry because you're looking at things that are developing like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and that all emanates from the industry we have already today, so there's both an opportunity and a necessity.

So what you're saying is use the automotive industry platform to expand to next generation mobility and what that will bring to the globe in the future.

Absolutely. The mantra from MICHauto from day one has always been, promote, retain, and grow our industry here. As we look at that, it's the same as a company like Ford Motor Company or a supplier like Lear, you want to make sure that you solidify the business you already have, and make sure that you make money and you develop your business off of the model you already have. For example, Ford needs to build F150s. But they also need to how to figure out how to evolve into this personal transportation, this mobility in a shared use economy space, because their business model has to change with it. So yes, it's an absolute necessity and opportunity for us to do that as a city, as a state and a region, but for corporations to do that too.

Okay, so in addition to the traditional automotive companies, mobility really relies on lots of innovation, lots of startups, and new players, and we've seen partnerships. But what does Detroit have to offer in this capacity?

When you look at the ecosystem here, it's very unique, and there is nothing like it in the world. You have literally almost 13,000 automotive establishments, companies, facilities, and operations in the state of Michigan. There are 17 global original equipment manufacturers, car companies with either their headquarters or a research center here, 11 assembly plants, 2,200 different research and design and engineering centers, so you look at that ecosystem and you find that there's an incredible amount of advance manufacturing that's occurring and there's an incredible amount of research and decision making that's going on.

Now you look at yourself and say, "I'm a startup, I'm a new technology company, I could be in the Valley, I could be in San Paolo, where do I want to incubate and where do I want to accelerate my technology?" Well the best thing to do would be to plant myself right in the middle of that ecosystem where all this technology, research and testing already exists. But at the same time, we're not known for that build out of that part of the ecosystem, we're not really known for the startup and VC, venture capital world, but that's something that we're really rapidly growing and becoming known for. Companies around the globe, innovators, and startups are saying, "I need to be in Detroit. I need to be in Grand Rapids, I need to be in Ann Arbor to be part of this decision making and this innovation that's occurring." And with it is growing this presence and this young talent and ideas and the venture capitals coming with it.

Excellent. So when taking into account all of the legacy industry that you just described and the new mobility assets, what role does MICHauto play in connecting those, or in this area?

Sure. Again, back to our core, it really has never changed from promote, retain, and grow our industry. But we're trying to evolve and make sure we evolve and make sure we're addressing the key industries. So the areas that we focus on, we advocate for the industry, particularly in Lansing, but also with our local economic development and politicians. We're working on the marketing and the awareness to the industry, we're really, really working to make sure that the talent pipeline--and that is critically important--is filled because the demands on the technology and innovation for today are one thing, but as we move into the future and mobility changes, the demands for talent to innovate and build these vehicles and this technology are also going to change.

So our role is really to make sure that we're advocating speaking for the industry and really, really focused on that talent pipeline. So we work with the schools around the state, we work with the universities, community colleges, to make sure that's happening. But I think one of the more important things that we also do is we really serve as that focal point in that connective point as part of this fabric of this ecosystem exists. We're really in the middle of it, we do a lot of connecting dots, we do a lot of working with companies to make sure they have the right resources, so we play a critical role because our job again, back to what I said early on is to promote, retain, and grow the industry, and that's our job, to be that voice.

Just to shift gears a little bit here, in the past month, there have been significant questions about safety with autonomous vehicles in test environments. Can you explain how Michigan's approach to safety positions this region ahead of other states?

So Michigan's approach to safety just like the auto industry here in Detroit is the same, safety's number one. When you look at this world that's developing around us, and you look at these transformative things I talked about with hyper urbanization and scarcity resources, the number one thing we need to do is save lives.

So if you look across the globe, over a million people annually lose their lives on transportation thoroughfares, you look at Michigan and we've got a curve that's going the wrong way with fatalities. So we believe that technology and autonomous vehicle technology, and automated and connected technology can really, really drive that down. If you look at for example, Michigan Department of Transportation, MDOT, they have a towards zero deaths score, and that's what we're really driving to. The role that Michigan plays and the industry plays is to be a leader on that forefront for safety.

Yes, there's been some stories and there will continue to be stories as innovation evolves, but the thing that we believe here is that we have the right ecosystem with testing facilities and the companies that are here, and the knowhow that's been developed over 100 years, how to bring new transportation to life with safety critical aspects at the top of the list.

Glenn Stevens it's been an absolute pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Well I really appreciate the opportunity and there's a lot of great work that's being done in Detroit and Michigan and across the state. We're proud that we have companies that allow us to do this work and invested in us to do this work. It was really a pleasure to be able to share some of that with you today, Claire.

For Detroit Driven, this was Mobility Moments Podcast. Special thanks to our sponsors for this episode, MICHauto, and Destination Detroit. Learn more about how Detroit is the region leading the world in mobility at

Subscribe to our newsletter and find more episodes of Mobility Moments. We're also on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening. Mobility Moments is hosted by Claire Charlton and produced and edited by Nina Ignaczak with Issue Media Group for Driven.


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