Mobility pillar matures at the Mackinac Policy Conference

As connected and autonomous vehicles and their various technologies make their way into the news, they form a picture of the future that is just beginning to seep into the collective consciousness of people around the globe.

But here in Michigan, forward-thinking researchers, automotive and transportation professionals, and policy experts have been watching the development of this next-generation mobility for years.

And because this new mobility economy is so strong and so important for Michigan, the advancement of this technology--and its effects on the movement of people, goods, and services--has been a pillar for the nationally recognized Mackinac Policy Conference for several years. This year’s conference mobility pillar examined various issues to strengthen Michigan’s readiness for the disruption that next-generation mobility will create for industry and society.

“Mobility has been, in some form or fashion, a pillar of the Mackinac Policy Conference for the past three years,” says Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Given the importance of mobility, we can’t cover all of the various issues in one year. So we have been slicing and dicing the pie to talk about different aspects.”

So how has the mobility discussion evolved over time?

“We started with discussions about the Internet of Things, and the infrastructure needed for mobility. Then we moved on to the connected car and the implications of big data. Now, we are focusing on the regulations and policy environment to enable that kind of success.”

From the Detroit Regional Chamber’s perspective, mobility has been a constant underlying theme of the work it does at the conference level, and well beyond.

“Mobility is a very broad topic. The regional transit issue is a mobility issue, and that’s been a big part of our conference, too,” says Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto, and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Glenn Stevens is executive director of MICHauto.

As Michigan’s automotive industry forges ahead with new and innovative business models, broadening and shifting as rapidly as the technology itself, mobility is constructing a new industry on the strength of Detroit’s existing automotive platform. And Detroit continues to lead the charge toward next-generation mobility.

“We need to diversity our economy, and I would argue that one of the greatest opportunities springs from our automotive economy,” says Stevens. “Mobility envelops artificial intelligence, machine learning, connected technology, the Internet of Things, all with the car at the center. What an opportunity to utilize our base level as we expand our economy on those different types of platforms.”

The Mackinac Policy Conference itself has also been the event for mobility industry announcements. Three years ago at the conference, leaders from the Michigan automotive industry, the Michigan Department of Transportation, MICHauto, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation together established the Michigan Mobility Initiative. This blueprint gave rise to PlanetM, the American Center for Mobility, federal legislation like AV START, as well as the most progressive state legislation in the nation.

“Three years later, we are talking about mobility not as something that is great and what should we do, but what can we do more of,” says Stevens. “How do we keep our leadership, or make sure we remain in the forefront? We continue to work with government, with leadership, and with other partners and organizations, and an incredible amount of work has been done and progress has been made. But there is still more work to be done.”

Next year’s conference mobility pillar will advance the conversation even further, says Baruah.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference has a new chair every year,” he says. “The incoming chair, Patti Poppe, CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy, will convene a statewide committee of CEOs and will work on the pillars for the 2019 conference.”
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