Skip navigation links

Jan. 14, 2020

MSU faculty included on team for Michigan Mobility Challenge

A faculty member from Michigan State University’s College of Communications Arts and Sciences is part of a team that was selected to receive a $1.77 million grant to compete in the NAIAS 2020 Michigan Mobility Challenge.

A first-of-its-kind autonomous vehicle demonstration, the Michigan Mobility Challenge will tap the state’s leading mobility experts to develop technologies to shuttle passengers through Detroit during the 2020 North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS.

Shelia Cotten, professor in the Department of Media & Information, will represent MSU and lend her expertise in sociomobility and a research background, which includes work on autonomous vehicles and the impacts technology has on society.

The challenge follows Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of five highly automated vehicle providers for the downtown Detroit circulator routes, which will offer unique in-vehicle experiences during NAIAS in June 2020, as well as the Mobility Challenge MaaS platform provider.

“The NAIAS 2020 Michigan Mobility Challenge builds on our state’s reputation as a leader in collaborating across the public and private sectors to successfully identify, create, support and deploy mobility solutions that address transportation challenges impacting the quality of life for Michigan residents,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist III. “In Michigan, we believe the true power and value in the technologies on display at NAIAS 2020 will be in how they make access to reliable, affordable transportation available to all of our state’s citizens.”

MSU is part of the team led by Dataspeed – a provider of complete autonomous research and development vehicle integrations a technology – and includes AM General, Comet Mobility and Easterseals.

Dataspeed's team will provide an accessible, automated shuttle service to navigate Detroit’s busy city streets, as well as highway-speed traffic. The automated shuttles, which Dataspeed will engineer, will be designed with the latest safety-focused technology and equipped with vehicle software and sensors to appropriately detect, predict and react during the pre-planned route. Built specifically for NAIAS 2020, passengers will also have a unique in-vehicle user experience provided by Comet Mobility.

“The Michigan Mobility Challenge provides opportunities for the public to experience autonomous vehicles during the NAIAS this summer," Cotten said. "Seeing and riding in an autonomous vehicle is likely to significantly impact people’s perceptions of autonomous vehicles — which is critical for enhancing acceptance and willingness to use autonomous vehicles in society in the future.”

Cotten will report on the project — from the partners involved to potential for sustainability moving forward for this type of initiative. 

“We are excited to be making such an impact in the future of transportation. Metro Detroit is not only the automotive capital of the nation, but it’s also paving the way in autonomous vehicle technology,” said Paul Fleck, founder and CEO of Dataspeed. “This project is a paramount step for the autonomous vehicle industry by showcasing driverless solutions that can bridge the mobility gap of persons with disabilities. These shuttle rides will build upon the increasing public trust and interest surrounding self-driving cars.”

The other competing team is led by FEV and includes Polysync, DriveU and Western Michigan University. FEV will offer an autonomous experience using four hybrid electric Kia Niros and the latest autonomous control technology, including the capability to control the vehicles from a remote location.

“Michigan is the past, present and future center of mobility revolution, and today’s announcement further solidifies our position,” said Paul C. Ajegba, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “Thanks to bipartisan support for groundbreaking legislation and our unique private-sector partnerships, including the North American International Auto Show, MDOT can continue to innovate and adapt our infrastructure to meet the needs of connected and automated transportation.”

Media Contacts