State Creates Office to Develop Future Mobility

Michigan has renewed its commitment to keeping the state at the forefront of transportation technology with a new investment and commitment on developing future mobility.
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connected infrastructure illustration
Michigan has established the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to keep the state at the forefront of mobility. // Stock photo

Michigan has renewed its commitment to keeping the state at the forefront of transportation technology with a new investment and commitment on developing future mobility.

On Thursday, it launched the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, which will work across state government, academia, and private industry to enhance Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, including developing mobility and electrification policies and supporting the startup and scale of emerging technologies and businesses.

Trevor Pawl was named chief mobility officer for the state as part of the announcement.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that Michigan strengthen opportunities for economic growth and job creation while securing our continued leadership in mobility and electrification through forward-thinking policies, innovative partnerships, and smarter infrastructure,” says Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Trevor has a proven track record of building and scaling state programs like Pure Michigan Business Connect and PlanetM. He is the right person to bring Michigan’s mobility ecosystem together under a common vision and generate meaningful results.”

The office will focus on six objectives:

  1. Increase mobility investment and job creation in the state from companies focused on future mobility.
  2. Expand the state’s smart infrastructure.
  3. Engage more mobility startups by making Michigan more enticing for companies to start, scale, commercialize, and grow mobility technologies.
  4. Develop and attract the skills and talent necessary to meet the changing demands of the mobility sector.
  5. Accelerate electric vehicle adoption by supporting the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles and expanding access to charging infrastructure.
  6. Bolster Michigan’s mobility manufacturing core by protecting the state’s competitiveness in electric and autonomous vehicle manufacturing and ability to move technologies to the industrial scale.

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve done to help advance the competitiveness of Michigan’s automotive core and grow the ecosystem around the new companies and technology reshaping mobility,” says Jeff Donofrio, director of the Michigan Department Labor and Economic Opportunity. “Developing a holistic statewide approach to mobility and electrification will be critical in helping our economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to creating a more diverse economy and workforce.”

The office was created in recognition of the changing landscape for automotive manufacturing and the need for a statewide approach to help government, education, and the private sector succeed in an evolving mobility industry. The state is also targeting new jobs related to mobility and electrification as part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s plan to create long-term economic opportunity in the state.

“Michigan put the world on wheels, and as we move into the next generation of transportation technologies, we need to assure we remain the global hub for the mobility industry,” Pawl says. “The Office of Future Mobility and Electrification will leverage our competitive advantages to make sure our state isn’t only a place where mobility solutions are born, it’s also where companies will find long-term success and support. While Michigan remains an undisputed leader in mobility, there is more work to be done, including increasing the state’s share of electric vehicle production, building a stronger pipeline of software engineering talent, and leveraging technology to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities.”

Whitmer directed the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to create the office via Executive Directive 2020-1. The office will live in the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and enhance services provided to mobility companies by PlanetM by incorporating a strategic policy team to recommend public policy around autonomous and connected vehicle technology, electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, shared transportation, and more. The Council on Future Mobility and Electrification was created under Executive Order 2020-1 and will be integrated into the office as part of the strategic policy efforts once appointments are made.

Supported by private sector leaders, the office will build on and expand the state’s mobility initiatives, including the Michigan Department of Transportation’s work with automotive industry partners in developing smart infrastructure, the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s work on economic competitiveness and attracting and developing talent; the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s work on electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and MEDC’s business development programs to support automotive mobility assemblers and suppliers.

As the anatomy of vehicles changes, the new office will work to accelerate relationships between suppliers and solutions providers across Michigan, Silicon Valley, Israel, and other high-tech markets. The office will also work to facilitate venture funds and other investment.

The office will build on Michigan’s leadership in smart infrastructure and through public policy initiatives, as well as grants and services to help activate new technologies across Michigan. There have been almost 10,000 fatal automobile crashes in Michigan in the last decade, and 94 percent were attributed to human error. Smart infrastructure can help prevent crashes.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has constructed nearly 500 miles of tech-enabled corridors as part of the largest vehicle to infrastructure technology deployment in the U.S. The office will work with the department to maintain Michigan’s position as a leader in mobility efforts. It plans to facilitate new deployments that leverage research and development from mobility companies and help Michigan cities solve transportation and infrastructure challenges.

Pawl was previously senior vice president of business innovation at MEDC, where he led the state’s economic development programs focused on mobility (PlanetM), supply chain (Pure Michigan Business Connect), entrepreneurship, and international trade.

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