Ford’s Michigan Central and Newlab Announce Accessible Streets Studio Cohort

Michigan Central, Ford Motor Co.’s new mobility innovation district in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Newlab, a multi-disciplinary technology center in Brooklyn, N.Y., today announced that seven companies from a competitive pool of global applicants have been selected as members of the inaugural cohort of the Accessible Streets Studio.
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Street at night
Ford’s Michigan Central and Newlab announced the first seven members of the inaugural Accessible Streets Studio cohort. // Image courtesy of Newlab

Michigan Central, Ford Motor Co.’s new mobility innovation district in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Newlab, a multi-disciplinary technology center in Brooklyn, N.Y., today announced that seven companies from a competitive pool of global applicants have been selected as members of the inaugural cohort of the Accessible Streets Studio.

Launched by Michigan Central and Newlab in 2020, the Accessible Streets Studio brings together Detroiters, civic stakeholders, startups, and industry experts to co-design innovative mobility solutions to address community needs.

Michigan Central is an emerging mobility innovation district in Corktown that will offer new and revitalized buildings, a first-of-its-kind mobility testing platform, and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space that includes the former Michigan Central Station, Roosevelt Warehouse, The Factory, and surrounding infrastructure. The renovated train station is scheduled to open in 2023.

Accessible Streets Studio is designed as an open platform for partnerships, drawing leading entrepreneurs, researchers, and technologists from Detroit and around the world to co-create and test new products and services on real-world streets, in real-world situations.

Working with the city of Detroit and applicable agencies, in the summer and fall of this year, the Accessible Streets Studio companies plan to deploy their technologies and services across Detroit neighborhoods to help address residents’ mobility challenges.

In January 2021, the Studio announced an open call for companies developing frontier technologies and novel products to apply to participate in the first cohort, which will tackle four major challenges faced by Detroit residents.

The four themes, which were uncovered through engagement with Detroit residents, community organizers, policymakers, and researchers, are: bridging transportation gaps, improving access to essential resources, fostering safe and welcoming streets, and ensuring access to timely and relevant mobility information.

The seven inaugural companies in the Accessible Streets Studio 2021 include:

  • Soofa builds solar-powered digital signs with an e-ink display.  Soofa Signs feature real-time updates on mobility resources, city communication, and wayfinding.
  • Kiwibot offers an autonomous delivery infrastructure of tomorrow for campuses, communities, and cities. With local deliveries powered by robots, Kiwibot is focused on providing an affordable, reliable, and friendly service.
  • Solartonic delivers solar power and wireless networks to smart communities exactly where they need it, managed through a remote cloud-based platform called solahub that integrates lighting, CCTV, IoT sensors, signage, and Wi-Fi network systems for mobility management and safe streets.
  • Numina measures various curb-level activity to support urban planning, policy, and operations that account for everyone, not just cars. Committed to privacy by design, Numina delivers completely anonymous and aggregated volume counts, paths, and traffic behaviors of travelers and objects in streets.
  • Lazarillo provides a navigation app for people who are blind and visually impaired to navigate the city using audible assistance that guides them through their physical environment and connects them to services while at home.
  • KUHMUTE is a universal charging network for anything smaller than a car, agnostic to both shared fleets and personally owned micro-mobility vehicles. The company is based in Flint, Mich.
  • Sway Mobility offers carshare-as-a-service by creating tailored, turnkey electric vehicle carshare programs for communities that include vehicles, insurance, tech, charging infrastructure, and operational support.

“By solving local mobility challenges, we can help connect our communities and build more equitable cities,” says Julie Roscini, who leads the Michigan Central development’s external engagement strategy for Ford​.

In addition to two local companies from Michigan, the cohort represents teams from California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, and New York looking to partner with Detroit. Over the coming months, each company will work closely with Newlab, Michigan Central, Studio advisors, and the community to design and develop plans for the deployment of their technologies and services in local communities.

Additionally, projects+PEOPLE, a Detroit-based organization dedicated to advancing economic mobility, will lead community engagement for the Studio. Its focus will be on strategically supporting the cohort’s pilot planning and rollout, along with facilitating engagement with the local community. The team will work with individuals and organizations from different Detroit neighborhoods to raise awareness of the pilot projects and establish touch points between the local community and the companies deploying new products and services to cultivate opportunities for feedback.

Pilots will prioritize four neighborhoods near Michigan Central Station: Corktown, North Corktown, Hubbard Richard, and Mexicantown. Through feedback and guidance from the Studio advisors, as well as through engagements led by project+PEOPLE for residents to interact with the companies, ask questions, and offer suggestions, company teams will gain critical insights for how to best adapt their solutions to meet Detroit’s needs and build momentum for adoption and long-term traction.

“We launched the Accessible Streets Studio to drive cutting-edge innovation that will help make city life more easily navigable for the residents of Detroit by addressing critical gaps in transportation, public safety, and access to resources and information,” says Shaina Horowitz, vice president of product and programs at Newlab. “We’re looking forward to working with the cohort companies to launch pilot projects in Detroit to generate important learnings and impact for residents, the City of Detroit, and cities across the world.”

The company applications underwent a review and selection process, which included feedback from representatives across Michigan Central, the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Detroit Department of Transportation, the City of Detroit, Assembly Ventures, Silicon Foundry, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, and the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan.

For anyone interested in getting involved with the Studio or the pilots, contact the Studio team at accessiblestreets@newlab.com.

Newlab is a community of experts and innovators applying transformative technology to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Newlab membership and studios bring together entrepreneurs, engineers, inventors, and industry leaders to create sustainable solutions and enterprises. Newlab employs technologies including robotics, AI, and material science to help transform health, environment, media, cities, and infrastructure.

 

 

 

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