Detroit must lead driverless vehicle effort or face extinction

By Mike Renda, General Manager

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines but don't touch that steering wheel - autonomous cars with no driver in the front seat could be here soon … as long as our local leaders move fast.

It is vital that our region grab a piece of the driverless vehicle before another major competitor takes advantage of this quickly advancing technology.

General Motors President Dan Ammann recognized this when he said:

"The role that GM will play in the auto business is going to change remarkably .It is our intention to define mobility. We're taking this deadly seriously and we're going to win."

In the past few years our local automotive industry has significantly ramped up efforts to make driverless vehicles a reality.

Even if we are years from mass commercialization, the reality is this: Detroit must be the leader of testing and research or face extinction.

The state of Michigan is doing its part by becoming one of the first states to allow autonomous cars with no driver on public roads.

And Gov. Rick Snyder just signed bills allowing automakers to operate networks of self-driving taxis in our state.

According to MichAuto, a local automotive development group, this state has 50 different car-connected projects that are looking to test their new mobility solutions.

Our region has already made some big moves; we have more than 125 miles of highway infrastructure built with Lear Corporation sensors that connect to autonomous vehicles.

Willow Run will be home to the American Center for Mobility and the University of Michigan opened its testing facility for autonomous vehicles last summer.

Here's my take - we can't take a back seat to anyone at this historic moment.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and suburban county leaders Warren Evans, Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson need to aggressively engage with the leaders of the mobility companies to ensure that our region will be ground zero for driverless vehicle testing.

Make no mistake if we don't take the lead on autonomous vehicles testing and production, we will become an afterthought in the evolving world of mobility solutions.

In the end it's about remaining the capital of the world's automotive industry, laying claim to the jobs this innovative technology will create and making sure our region thrives as long as there are cars on the road.

Let us know what you think.

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