Opinion that Detroit should steer driverless car industry gets strong response

By Mike Renda, General Manager

There were strong opinions on both sides in response to my recent editorial calling for Detroit leaders and residents to embrace the testing of driverless vehicle technology.

Many viewers voiced major concerns about safety and potential job loss.

Viewer Mike McBride said "I don't trust them and never will own or ride in one. All this does is eliminate people's jobs like truck drivers."

Evan Tsaprazis wrote "As interesting and exciting as it looks, all this technology can be used against us one day. Anyone with the capabilities could hack into these car systems and drive the person off a cliff. Lots of uncertainties."

Latoya Jackson Mobley said "Too many uncertainties and I am willing to bet they have not assessed all the risks. How will the insurance companies protect/blame in the event of an accident? Another toy on the street that has potential for deadly outcomes."

But some residents reacted more positive for the Detroit region to become the center for autonomous car testing.

Ryan Caldwell wrote "Technology is at the point where it would probably be significantly safer than the majority of people driving. People are quick to point out that something could go wrong, but it is likely they would have some sort of manual control option."

Eric Avedesian responded: "For those that don't think this is a good idea or will ever come to fruition, you are sadly mistaken. I'm sure people that had the first computer that occupied an entire room never dreamed we would be typing away on a computer we hold in our own hands."

Kelly Martin said: "It is kind of scary, but at the same time will the driverless cars be texting, eating, daydreaming or any of the other distracting habits behind the wheel?"

At the end of the day this evolving technology is a huge economic issue for our region. At this month's Detroit Economic Club, future mobility was the main topic at a sold-out crowd at the Book Cadillac. Matthew J. Simoncini, the president of Lear Corporation said it best with his frank assessment on how the future of mobility can impact Detroit and the state of Michigan:

"It is a competition between us and others. We need to grab our birthright and leverage it he said. We have been through the best and worst times and now we have a golden opportunity. This is the industry that designs and creates jobs. If we do not pull it together and make sure we bring it back home right here in Detroit. We could lose it."

I couldn't agree more. GM, Ford, and many innovative local companies are all in. Our local political leaders need to be all in. It is vital to the Detroit region we become a thriving epicenter for the driverless vehicle technology.