Michigan dangles $8M to spur ideas on mobility technology

The state of Michigan will award $8 million in grants as part of a "mobility" initiative to spur new, practical and short-term ways to help transport seniors, people with disabilities and veterans with autonomous vehicles and other new technology.

The Michigan Mobility Challenge was announced Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder and other top state officials at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference. Snyder said one of the three pillars of advances in mobility is opportunity.

"This technology, the resources that will come to bear can give people opportunities do to things they otherwise may not be able to do in their lives because they have constraints, challenges they face," he said during a news conference on the porch of the Grand Hotel. The goal with the challenge program, he said, is to "think out of box" and be proactive to spur pilot projects instead of waiting "for the rest of the world."

The state will issue a request for proposals on June 4. An initial round of pilots will be operational by this fall.

State leaders hope that the auto industry, startup companies, local transit agencies, governments and advocates for the elderly, veterans and disabled will be involved in proposing public-private partnerships while seeking the funding. The grants will subsidize a portion of the costs to plan, implement and monitor services for three to six months. Remaining costs would be covered by fares and other funds.

"I'll guarantee you not all of these are going to work great. But isn't that the way we should be innovating? Let's try things," said Snyder, who said funding will not go to "science projects" requiring years of research but instead will be used to subsidize "near-term real things."

Officials said the initiative is the latest move to ensure Michigan is a leader on self-driving vehicles and mobility technology. The state has taken a largely hands-off approach with regulations compared with some other states and is home to two major autonomous vehicle research facilities.



Michigan Mobility Challenge: www.michigan.gov/mobilitychallenge