PlanetM Launches $1M Grant Program to Support Mobility Startups


PlanetM, Michigan’s mobility-focused brand and business development program, Tuesday announced it has launched a grant program of more than $1 million to support mobility startups. The two-part program includes a PlanetM Pilot Grant and a PlanetM Testing Grant. Both were unveiled during the 2018 ITS America Annual Meeting that was held in Detroit.

“The startup technology that is being tested and deployed here in Michigan will lead to real and meaningful improvements in the quality of life and access to transportation solutions throughout the state,” says Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM. “We’re constantly working to address the needs and challenges expressed by those actively engaged in the mobility community, and we are taking it to the next level via testing and deployment.”

The grants enable mobility startups to deploy and test their technologies on Michigan’s roadways within closed real-world environments. The goal is to make transportation easier, safer, and more affordable for Michigan residents.

“As the needs of residents change, we must develop creative solutions for addressing transit and infrastructure gaps that evolve with geographical shifts,” says Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “Collaborative approaches such as this provide important opportunities to pilot the technology that will make our roads safer and demonstrate Michigan’s continued leadership in the mobility sector.”

Derq, which has operations in Detroit and  Dubai, and Mcity, a 32-acre connected and autonomous vehicle test campus at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, joined the announcement.

Derq develops software using artificial intelligence to predict and prevent car crashes. It is the first company to take part in the pilot grant program, and is launching two advanced software applications for automated and connected vehicles and road infrastructure in downtown Detroit at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street. The applications will focus on predicting vehicle- and pedestrian-related risks around intersections and alerting fleets and vehicles equipped with Derq technology.

“We are very excited to bring Derq’s AI and V2X software capabilities to Detroit,” says Georges Aoude, CEO and co-founder of Derq. “Coming from Dubai, we’re thankful to have great partners like PlanetM and MDOT in both this pilot project and in helping us to build our business in the U.S. We’re proud to consider Michigan as our U.S. headquarters and to be part of Michigan’s evolution as the mobility state.”

Mcity is the first advanced testing facility partner for the testing grant program, which will provide startups with a discounted testing fee.

“The cost to test can be a deterrent for many startups,” says Greg McGuire, lab director at Mcity. “We’re proud to work with PlanetM and MDOT to take action and provide funding to reduce these costs. This will allow startups to focus their resources on enhancing and demonstrating their technologies, and simultaneously works to deepen companies’ ties to Michigan and our mobility ecosystem.”

Other pilot grant programs have also been introduced, including the city of Detroit’s Detroit Mobility Innovation Initiative, and Michigan’s $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge.

PlanetM is a partnership of mobility organizations, communities, educational institutions, research and development, and government agencies working to develop and deploy mobility technology. It is part of Michigan Economic Development Corp.

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