In-house advanced mobility innovation doesn’t always make sense for automotive manufacturers and suppliers. They need partnerships with startups and entrepreneurs who have already created solutions to the complex needs of autonomous vehicles. And sometimes those solutions sprout up halfway across the globe.
Many mobility innovations that have gained traction in the market originated in Israel, a country which leads
the globe in research and development spending. The so-called “startup nation,” already recognized as a hub for cybersecurity solutions, Israel is teeming with developers of sensors, testing platforms, and many other products critical to the deployment of autonomous vehicles by Detroit’s biggest manufacturers and suppliers.
With organizations like Destination Detroit
at the Detroit Regional Chamber and MEDC’s PlanetM
working continually to attract just the right startups to pitch their innovations to automotive companies and suppliers here in the Detroit Region, these important connections are being made.
This month, on a post Labor Day afternoon, five Israeli startups pitched their concepts to an audience peppered with representatives from more than 15 stakeholders, including Ford, General Motors, Bosch, Continental, venture capital firms and many others. The startups were members of a Tel Aviv-based mobility accelerator called DRIVE
.The DRIVE Tech Showcase was a collaborative effort between Michigan and Israeli organizations to connect innovators to mobility business leaders.
The event, designed to match startups with corporations looking for mobility expertise, was the result of a connection
made earlier this year between Seun Phillips, director of PlanetM and Boaz Mamo, co-founder and CEO of DRIVE.
“What [Boaz is] doing with DRIVE and what we’re doing with PlanetM comes together. We’re focused on startups who have a unique value proposition for large corporations and being able to fill that need,” says Phillips.
That spark between Phillips and Mamo, with help from Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction with the Detroit Regional Chamber, brought the tech showcase event together.
“With the resources we have here in Michigan, the innovation in Israel is growing at a very rapid rate, and it’s important that we match the innovations with our suppliers, research and development, OEMs and the wonderful resources we have,” Phillips says.
The startup culture of Israel is a good match for Michigan’s deep roots of experience in automotive development, in the state where 17 OEMs and 96 of the top 100 suppliers have a presence
“We recognize that continuing to lead the future of the automotive industry is really the most important challenge ahead of us here in the state of Michigan. While we are there currently with the technology and the infrastructure, we all know that the disruption can come from anyplace. More and more, that disruption is coming from Israel,” says Robinson, underlining the long-term commitment of Michigan’s relationship with Israel.
“I’m happy to be considered a local”
To share his story of growth in Michigan, Ami Dotan, founder of Bloomfield Hills-based Karamba Security
talked about his experience moving here two years ago. Dotan built his cybersecurity company because he recognized the need
in the market, and the value of planting roots in the heart of the automobile industry.
“It was obvious that this is where I needed to be. We didn’t even have a name. We were just four guys having fun with a problem. And we like challenges, which is typical of Israelis, by the way,” says Dotan, adding that in just the last five years, Israeli startups have built technology around sensors, lidar, security, and many other innovative solutions.
Seun Phillips, director of PlanetM, welcomed the Israeli delegation to Detroit.
Dotan and his colleagues created solutions to the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of autonomous vehicles, and formed his company after meeting with funders here in Michigan. He calls the support available here a “soft landing.”
“To you Israeli entrepreneurs, this is the place. People talk about Silicon Valley but this is where the automakers are. You don’t understand how difficult it is to design and manufacture a car until you come here,” Dotan says.
A compulsory military service for most in Israel fuels a mindset for undertaking “impossibile missions with limited resources,” almost identical to the requirements for success in a startup, says Mamo. Diversity in Israel also helps develop multiple perspectives to challenges.
DRIVE’s delegation is hoping to break down the barriers that exist in making connections here, says Mamo. “The ecosystem is less friendly to very early-stage startups, less open to having discussions,” he says, sharing that established companies here want to see some proof of success. “They ask are you a supplier, or are you not a supplier? It’s in their DNA, and it’s hard to change the behavior of people.”
But autonomous vehicles require a bold new ecosystem, one that depends upon sensors, lidar, data, and more data, as well as the software and systems in which to operate.
“If [an OEM] wants to stay in the game, they’re thinking of working with a tech company,” says Mamo, adding that his accelerator acts like a clutch in a car by connecting the big wheel to the little wheel to make movement happen.
Without the help of the Detroit Regional Chamber, PlanetM, and the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator
(MIBA), DRIVE and the startups it supports would never be able to connect at the epicenter of mobility.
“We absolutely need their help on the ground,” says Mamo. “Or we’d just skip it.”
Helping Israeli companies network here in Michigan and letting Michigan companies know how they can benefit from the Israeli innovation ecosystem are two goals of MIBA. Ultimately, MIBA works to spur the a more startup-friendly environment in Michigan, says Sandy Selinger, CEO of MIBA.
Justin Robinson is vice president of business attraction with the Detroit Regional Chamber
“We need that level of chutzpah to exist in Michigan for us to be able to to drive the kind of innovation we’re hoping to get.”
Here’s a taste of the startups that showcased their innovations during the September event:
By 2025, the average self-driving vehicle will have 12 to 16 sensors that, in order to function in all types of conditions, will need to be cleaned, according to Miles Flamenbaum, advisor with Actasys. Initially validated for use in military applications, Actasys has developed a system that uses air to keep sensors clean, allowing the vehicle “to operate under any condition,” says Flamenbaum.
Plug-in electric vehicles face challenges with battery and charging time. Addionics has pioneered technology to reduce charge times and increase the range, even at high speed travel, of EV batteries. “In the last 30 years, there has been no change in the innovation and structure of the battery cell,” says Mosheil Biton, CEO and co-founder of Addionics.
. Connected vehicles have 16 clear cyberattack points. CipherSiP has innovated technology to watermark code to allow third parties to authenticate the data. The innovation requires no new hardware, and allows for complete binary authentication. “We work to secure connected cars, connected industry, and connected cities,” says Gilad Ness, director of marketing and business development.
To ensure safety, AVs require miles of testing, both on the road, and in virtual situations. But how do developers test every scenario? Through its GigaScale Intelligent Verification, Foretellix creates libraries of scenarios to test against various driver, AV, and pedestrian behaviors, allowing developers to authenticate vehicle safety. “We challenge the car in hundreds of millions of scenarios,” says Ziv Binyamini, CEO and co-founder of Foretellix. “Each scenario can generate different meaningful scenarios. The partner codes the scenarios with our help to address any kind of risk.”
The ability to “see” and function despite dust, smoke, fog, darkness and hazy conditions make AVs more capable than human drivers. The reason they can see so well lies in SWIR, or shortwave infrared cameras. Currently in use in defense, science, and aerospace applications due to their expense, the SWIR camera is becoming more accessible through the work of TriEye. In the last seven years at Hebrew University, researchers have developed a way to decrease the cost of SWIR by three orders of magnitude, or 1,000 times,” says Avi Bakal, CEO and co-founder of TriEye.
Unless otherwise indicated, photos by Detroit Regional Chamber