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The Future of Transportation Mobility

Technology is keeping people and products on the move

More than just how you and I get around, transportation mobility encompasses all modes of getting goods, and people, from one place to another. In the past decade, that mobility has transformed, accelerated by quickly evolving technologies, new business models and shifting consumer expectations.

Amid this new transportation mobility revolution, the global pandemic hits. Can industries regain the momentum? Much may depend on businesses ability to adapt to changing times. Looking at the transformation Michigan has made for the personal transportation industry might be a good example of how to pivot.

Advances in personal transportation—Michigan’s story
Replacing animal drawn wagons, the invention of the automobile nearly a century ago helped shape America’s middle class. It would also place Detroit in the center of the industrial age of mass production. The Big Three automakers found a home there—Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, among others. But it was Ford’s automated assembly line that put Detroit on the map as the Motor City.

The auto industry in Michigan began a sharp decline in the 1960s. In addition to socio-economic reasons, automakers underestimated overseas competitors that were making smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. By the late 2000s, Ford was drowning in debt, Chrysler and GM were forced to reorganize under bankruptcy, and in 2013, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy—the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

Fast forward to 2019. Michigan’s auto industry emerged leaner and quicker to adapt to industry changes and consumer demand. Jobs and sales have steadily increased. Production has ramped up, including more than 20 car models that are manufactured in the state.

Michigan’s roadmap included the rise of battery-powered cars. Ironically, some of the earliest automobiles invented ran on battery power, not fossil fuels. Autonomous vehicles (AVs), driverless or self-driving vehicles, are also an important sector. AVs were projected to represent about 66 percent of all passenger vehicle miles traveled by 2040, according to a 2019 McKinsey research report.

Both EVs and AVs were on the rise, to meet stricter environmental standards and increased consumer adoption.

Then the COVID-19 threw people’s lives and businesses into a tailspin.

Analysts say the ability of Michigan’s automakers and suppliers to weather the current economic downturn will depend on how well they continue to adapt. Strong assets in Michigan’s corner include state legislative support and a focus on engineering jobs and education—crucial for new technology and automation development.

Line of parked semis

The Pivot
Over the next five years, major automakers around the globe are expected to spend more than $400 billion developing electric and automated cars, according to consulting firm AlixPartners. The cost for an electric vehicle is anticipated to drop below a gas-powered vehicle by 2025.

Michigan is well positioned for the future. Not only are automakers adapting and investing to retool factories, retrain workers and rebuild supply chains, but there is also strong state support.

Michigan is in the top 15 states for a favorable business tax climate. Legislators continue to streamline regulations and support workforce growth. In 2019, $20 million in funding was earmarked by the state for investments in next-generation mobility technology.

The state has successfully attracted investors, including $29 billion in original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and supplier investment. So far in Michigan: 18 OEM or technology centers are located there; 96 of the top 100 auto suppliers in North America have business operations there; the state is the No. 1 exporter of transportation equipment in the U.S.; and Michigan leads the nation in allowing driverless cars and vehicle platoon testing on public roads.

19 universities and colleges in the state offer nationally-ranked undergraduate engineering programs. The state is No. 1 for engineering-related jobs.

Freight and Logistics Mobility Innovation
You might not think too deeply about how a company like Amazon or other vendors are able to deliver just about anything to you within two days. However, these are issues that many working in freight and logistics contemplate daily.

There is a conglomerate of resources from different sectors working on future innovations in moving things domestically and globally.

Just outside of Fort Worth, Texas, there is a 26,000-acre master-planned mobility development called AllianceTexas. It is flanked by the Fort Worth Alliance Airport, BNSF Railway’s Alliance Intermodal Facility, FedEx Southwest Regional Sort Hub, Amazon Air’s newest regional air hub, and more than 500 global and regional brands.

This first-of-its-kind collaboration brings together corporations, customers, policy makers, regulators, entrepreneurs and academic institutions to develop, test, scale, and commercialize advanced mobility technology and business models.

Since its creation in 1989 by Hillwood, a premier industrial, commercial and residential real estate developer, AllianceTexas has become home to more than 500 companies, created over 61,000 jobs and brought in an estimated $76 billion for North Texas. The region now includes premier health care providers, higher education campuses, shopping and entertainment. AllianceTexas is a vibrant community, centered around a modern intermodal mobility hub.

Other aspects of transportation mobility
In addition to our personal vehicles, communities are evaluating how people can efficiently get around. That may include improved, zero waste public transportation, pedestrian pathways, networks of bicycles and routes, and ride sharing networks. Progressive villages, small towns and cities are connecting mobility with other “smart cities” ideas—applying technology to benefit citizens in their daily lives.

Smart city mobility results in better resource management, cost savings and pollution reduction. For residents, there is seamless interchange between multiple modes of transportation, where people can customize their own travel experience to fit their needs and budget.

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