Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn is opening an information center at The Factory at Corktown in an effort to facilitate ongoing engagement with the community regarding the development of Ford’s mobility campus, which will be centered around Michigan Central Station.
The company also is launching the City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge, a co-creation and crowdsourcing program for residents, businesses, and community groups to propose pilot solutions that improve mobility surrounding the train station.
The information center will be located at 1907 Michigan Ave. and will provide the public with access to project information, construction updates, mobility pilot programs and technologies, and community initiatives.
“We’ve learned a lot from local residents and businesses over the past year as we further our plans for the development of Michigan Central Station,” says Mary Culler, Detroit development director for Ford. “Our new information center will provide an ongoing opportunity to share our plans, celebrate the culture of the area, and continue learning from the community. In this historic neighborhood, we’re building a place where people can solve real-world challenges and create future opportunities together.”
Ford will launch the eight-month City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge in partnership with PlanetM, and solutions chosen for pilot tests will be supported with $250,000. An additional $78,000 in stipends will be available to support 12 finalists as they tailor their ideas and develop full pilot proposals. Further support will come from sponsors AT&T, Dell Technologies, and Microsoft.
“As the city that put the world on wheels, innovation is in the DNA of all Detroiters,” says Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility innovation for the city of Detroit. “I’m certain that the City:One Challenge collaboration between Ford and the residents around Michigan Central Station will result in a number of unique ideas that will make it easier, safer, and more affordable to get around the area.”
The goal of the challenge is to improve the quality of life for people living, working, and visiting the community surrounding the station through the development of mobility solutions that complement existing transportation services.
“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to advance our state’s technology and automotive landscape in a way that also makes communities safer, greener, and more productive,” says Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “Today’s announcement of the City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge reconfirms Michigan’s commitment to maintaining our edge in mobility while improving the lives and safety of residents here in Detroit and across the state.”
The challenge also will support and inform the broader transportation planning efforts under the Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework Plan, as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages Study for Michigan Avenue.
“Ensuring that inclusive and accessible transportation options exist for the people in our community remains a vital priority, and it starts with identifying solutions to today’s most crucial mobility challenges,” says Trevor Pawl, senior vice president of business innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “The City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge combines Michigan’s opportunistic approach to the advancement of new mobility technology with our commitment to improving the quality of life for individuals by directly engaging with those most impacted in the community.”
Participants will investigate potential methods that help residents overcome barriers to transportation, make biking and walking more inviting, and help residents move into and out of the neighborhoods around the train station. The challenge will also explore how to bring daily services to residents, especially those who many not have easy access to transportation.
“We strongly believe that the residents and business owners in the neighborhoods surrounding Michigan Central Station are critical partners in ensuring the community can meet the needs of all its residents,” says Aniela Kuzon, global lead of Ford City:One Innovation.
“That’s why we’re directly involving the community in our City:One Challenge. Improving mobility for current and future residents will be crucial to preserving the unique fabric of the entire community.”
Ford launched the same challenge platform in 2018 in Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County, and Grand Rapids. The challenges resulted in pilots addressing issues ranging from long student pickup lines at schools to safer transportation methods for night shift workers. Ford has also launched a challenge in Indianapolis and Mexico City. It plans to launch in more locations.
Residents interested in participating and submitting ideas can check out the challenge website to share their experiences and sign up for the first in a series of community working sessions. Ford will use data analytics to look at insights from online submissions and the community workshops to help shape the issues explored by the program.
The first workshop will take place 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26 at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center. Other workshop dates will be announced. Anyone can participate and start submitting ideas for solutions the week of Aug. 28.
In October, a committee of city officials, community stakeholders, and corporate collaborators will select finalists to receive in-kind support and cash stipends to refine their ideas into a final pilot proposal. A panel of judges working with Detroit city officials, Ford, and its collaborators will award up to $250,000 to fund pilots to test the top proposed solutions.
Ford is currently using its ride-hailing service GoRide to help families pick up meals and attend appointments at local food banks. The company also acquired Spin, an electric scooter startup, last year, and expanded its fleet of scooters in Corktown.
Argo AI, and artificial intelligence company and Ford’s partner for autonomous vehicle system development, started on-road testing of a Ford Fusion Hybrid self-driving vehicle in Detroit earlier this month. Similar vehicles are already deployed in Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, Miami, and Washington, D.C. Ford’s self-driving business unit, based at The Factory at Corktown, has made a $1 billion investment in Argo AI.