Why Autonomous Companies Are Moving To Detroit

This blog post was written by Trevor PawlGroup VP, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and shared/published on LinkedIn.com on December 18, 2017. Click here to view the original blog post on LinkedIn.

Detroit is no stranger to innovation. From the Model T to Motown, the Motor City is a place that has inspired and cultivated entrepreneurs and leading-edge thinking for more than 100 years.

That same pioneering spirit lives on today and is the driving force behind the city’s “autonomous” renaissance, as tech giants like Google and startups like Lunar Wireless and May Mobility are setting up shop in Michigan to tap into our world-class mobility ecosystem.

Who can blame them? Michigan leads the world in the development and integration of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), with the most extensive system of test beds in the world and more projects than any other state in the country. The Detroit region is Michigan’s hub for mobility projects, with CAV test beds spread across the region, including University of Michigan’s Mcity and the American Center for Mobility.

It’s true Silicon Valley has been seen by many as the headquarters for innovation and disruption. But as the tech and auto converge, companies and entrepreneurs need more than the noisy, oversaturated market of the Valley in order to break through and grow – particularly for those focused on mobility.

In Detroit, mobility businesses have access to an enormous amount of resources just like the Valley – and then some. The state is not only committed to embracing the future of mobility and fostering the evolution of connected and self-driving vehicle technology, but Detroit is the epicenter of the global automotive industry.

That’s why we launched PlanetM, a partnership of the State of Michigan, mobility companies, communities, educational institutions, research and development, and government agencies that are working together to develop and deploy the mobility technologies driving the future. PlanetM offers concierge services for any mobility-focused company or investor to plug into Michigan’s automotive expertise.

To boot, we recently partnered with the Detroit Regional Chamber and WeWork to form the PlanetM Landing Zone in downtown Detroit – a unique space where mobility startups can connect with Detroit’s automotive and economic development network. Companies already in the space include Ford, SPLT, DriveSmart, Bosch, Spatial and Mapbox.

PlanetM is also working to educate venture capital (VC) firms about our mobility ecosystem. So far, we have made over 350 connections between out of state VCs with OEMs, tier ones, local VCs, government organizations, universities and startups.

Thanks to these efforts, Detroit is becoming a hot spot for entrepreneurs who are looking for a vibrant city to launch and grow their companies. According to the 2017 Detroit Entrepreneurial Study, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of Detroit-based startup companies over the past three years and in just the last year 14 startups in Detroit received more than $62 million from venture capital firms.

With its focus on the future, vast resources and assets, and the city’s cultural legacy and spirit of innovation, there is no question that Detroit is the city of mobility – making it the ideal location for any company interested in driving the next generation of transportation.

If you’re interested in learning more about Detroit’s mobility ecosystem or PlanetM, feel free to visit www.planetm.com.