Michigan’s forward march toward the next generation of transportation technology just advanced dramatically with formal creation of the Michigan Office of Future Mobility & Electrification, paving the way to scaled up progress in the realm of autonomous vehicles.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced the formal launch of that office by naming Trevor Pawl as the state’s Chief Mobility Officer and by reaffirming Michigan’s position as the global leader in producing and developing the next-generation of transportation technologies. The new office will work across state government, academia and private industry to enhance Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, including developing dynamic mobility and electrification policies and supporting the startup and scale up of emerging technologies and businesses.
The governor says, “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,” and adding, “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 new Office of Future Mobility & Electrification will focus on six objectives:
- Increase Mobility Investment in Michigan: Generate new investment and job creation from tech companies focused on future mobility, including autonomous and electric vehicle innovation.
- Expand Michigan’s Smart Infrastructure: Further develop systems for deploying autonomous and shared transportation.
- Engage More Mobility Startups: Establish Michigan as a premier location for young companies to start, scale, commercialize and grow technologies redefining the movement of people and goods.
- Further Enable Michigan’s Mobility Workforce: Develop and attract the skills and talent necessary to meet the changing demands of the mobility sector.
- Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption in Michigan: Support the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles and expand access to charging infrastructure.
- Bolster Michigan’s Mobility Manufacturing Core: Protect the state’s competitiveness in electric and autonomous vehicle manufacturing and ability to move technologies into industrial scale manufacturing.
Jeff Donofrio, Director of the Michigan Department Labor and Economic Opportunity, says, “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,” and adds, “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 creation of the new office is a recognition of the changing landscape for automotive manufacturing and the need for a comprehensive statewide approach to help government, education and the private sector succeed in an evolving mobility industry. The state of Michigan is also targeting new jobs related to mobility and electrification as part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s strategic plan to create long term economic opportunity throughout Michigan.
New Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl says, “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. 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.” He notes, “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.”
Through the signing of Executive Directive 2020-1, Governor Whitmer directed the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) to create the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and the designation of a Chief Mobility Officer to head the office.
The OFME, with Pawl serving as Chief Mobility Officer, will live within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and enhance the current concierge-level services being provided to mobility companies by PlanetM, by incorporating a strategic policy team to recommend public policy around autonomous and connected vehicle technology, electric vehicle technology, charging infrastructure, shared transportation, and other relevant issues. The Council on Future Mobility and Electrification, created under Executive Order 2020-1, will be integrated into the OFME as part of these strategic policy efforts once appointments are made.
Supported by private sector leaders, the OFME will build on, and expand, on the current successes of the state’s mobility initiatives – including the Michigan Department of Transportation’s ongoing work with automotive industry partners in developing smart infrastructure; the LEO’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 and mobility assemblers and suppliers.
Michigan’s suppliers have contributed most to the state’s auto employment growth since 2013, but the anatomy of vehicles is rapidly changing and so is the content that suppliers need to provide. The OFME will look to accelerate meaningful relationships between suppliers and solutions providers across Michigan, Silicon Valley, Israel and other high-tech markets. Michigan is the 2nd highest receiver of venture funds to mobility startups. But, unlike other regions, most venture capital funding to mobility startups in Michigan is focused on hardware, with only 6 percent of investment in software. The OFME will work on this imbalance by enhancing the state’s PlanetM initiative which has already facilitated over $91 million in investment since 2017 by connecting new, next-generation mobility companies into Michigan’s automotive community.
The OFME will also build on Michigan’s leadership in smart infrastructure and through active 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. Of those, 94-percent are attributed to human error. The sooner smart infrastructure is deployed, the more lives can be saved.
To date, 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 United States. The OFME will work with MDOT to maintain Michigan’s sole position as a national leader in inclusive, community-led mobility efforts. This means facilitating new deployments that leverage R&D from mobility companies and help Michigan cities solve pressing transportation and infrastructure challenges.
Pawl previously served as Senior Vice President of Business Innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation where he led the State of Michigan’s economic development programs focused on the future of mobility at PlanetM, supply chain (Pure Michigan Business Connect), entrepreneurship and international trade.