Mobility in Michigan

The auto industry is changing. And Michigan is doing so right along with it

By Gary S. Vasilash

To be sure, the world is chasing advanced mobility solutions, things that will include cars and trucks as we know them—more or less—as well as other modes of transportation, be they electric scooters or air taxis.

Of the places in the world where this is probably focused on more than almost anywhere else is Michigan, given that the southeastern part of the state is where cars and trucks as we know them originally emerged in sufficient numbers that, well, we know them. (While Henry Ford didn’t “invent” the automobile nor the truck, what he did do was create a system whereby those things became accessible to regular people: manufacturing operations may not be the sexiest of things, that’s how Ford, as the phrase has it, “put the world on wheels.”)

Detroit Smart Parking Lab (Image: Ford)

Certainly there are other places where mobility is of intense interest, whether it is Silicon Valley or Stuttgart.

So the state of Michigan appointed its first chief mobility officer, Trevor Pawl. And we have him on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Pawl’s undertakings in this position are wide ranging.

For example, the State announced it is working with Ford, Bedrock and Bosch to launch what is described as “the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for emerging parking technology.” Yes, parking. It is the “Detroit Smart Parking Lab.”

About a year ago the state announced that it would be building what is described as “a first-in-the-nation connected and autonomous vehicle corridor” between Detroit and Ann Arbor, again working with a number of partners (including Ford—that company is serious about the future of transportation).

And Pawl and his team are working on the ways and means to get seniors and the disabled to where they need to go. They are working on the build-out of charging infrastructure.

And a whole lot more.

Pawl talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley of IHS Markit, and me on the show.

And you can see it all here.

Robotaxis: Will They Take the Long Way?

Maybe in seven or so years we’ll have the answer

Robotaxis are what companies from Cruise to Zoox are assiduously working on, the mode of transport that will take the driver out of the equation.

According to market intelligence firm Guidehouse Insights, which has released a report titled Robotaxi Services Overview, this is why: “Removing drivers from ride-hailing operations is widely seen as an opportunity for the industry to reduce operating costs and ensure profitability.”

However, the firm also notes, “major players including Waymo, DiDi, Cruise and Uber have placed multibillion-dollar bets on developing automated driving technology and piloting robotaxi services.”

Seems like it is going to take a whole lot of rides to make an ROI of “multibillion-dollar” investments.

One of the assessments made by Guidehouse Insights is that more than 90% of all passenger miles traveled by robotaxis between 2020 and 2030 will occur in China, North America and Europe.

One thing: According to Sagie Evbenata, sensor research analyst with the firm, “Few commercial deployments are likely to be seen until 2028-2029, but this is likely to be followed by a period of extreme growth where robotaxis mainly replace human-driven ride-hailing services.”

So, no, you’ve not missed much in 2021.

SEAT Extending Mobility in Barcelona

Driving a car with some years on it can be very expensive. This subscription service provides a vehicle for the month for the price of a single fine

Barcelona is one of the wonderfully walkable cities in the world, which benefits, in part, from the implementation of a 95-square kilometer low-emission zone, which has some serious teeth: pre-2000 gasoline-powered vehicles entering the zone and diesels that were built before 2006 are charged from €100-150. The zone operates Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 8 pm.

Of course, there’s an app for MÓ (Image: SEAT)

Barcelona is also the HQ of VW’s SEAT. Which undoubtedly makes it challenging to be, well, a car company.

So SEAT created MÓ, a mobility business. It has launched a flexible subscription model for its eScooter 125. For € 70 a week or €150 a month, SEAT MÓ is offering not only the scooter, but roadside assistance and 24-hour customer service.

Not entirely surprising: the subscription project is based in the center of Barcelona, which is where the e125s are picked up and deposited.