Crain’s Detroit Business: Sen. Peters: Autonomous vehicles could make Michigan center of AI

  • Sen. Gary Peters discussed the future of Michigan
  • He believes AI is our greatest opportunity
  • Fears foreign M&A could pose threat to our technological advancements

Sen. Gary Peters sees a Michigan future that's more than cars — if the state and its private and public sectors can seize on the opportunity.

Speaking to Detroit Economic Club members Monday at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Peters called for the state to capitalize on its leadership role in developing autonomous vehicles, a position that could make the state a leader in artificial intelligence writ large.

Peters said the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles is the "moonshot" that would push artificial intelligence toward its full potential.

"Michigan is at the forefront of transforming the world (with self-driving cars); these cars are every bit as transformational as those first cars invented," Peters said. "Change is only disruptive if it's happening to you. ... Artificial intelligence will reshape our daily lives. Detroit is at the convergence of this very dynamic place. We have every way to get ahead of them and win the future."

Without specific proposals, Peters said the state must prepare itself by training and retraining its workforce for the benefits and consequences of AI. He referenced how AI will replace humans in many jobs — some experts claim as many as half of all jobs could be replaced by automation in the next decade.

"Today's middle class jobs are the most likely to be automated ... and could lead to a hollowing of our middle class," he said. "It's our responsibility that people at the top aren't the only ones that benefit from the productivity this technology brings."

Peters also fears Michigan, and the U.S. as a whole, losing out competing countries, particularly our "enemies," as our AI intellectual property gets bought up.

In November, Peters sponsored a bill The Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) bill, which would strengthen the review process on foreign entities buying U.S. companies.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approves acquisitions, mergers and other foreign investments in the U.S. and has come under criticism for approving sales by contentious countries, such as Russia and China. The committees review process hasn't been updated in nearly 10 years, Peters said in a release in November.

"Michigan is leading the way in the development of cutting-edge, innovative technologies that will revolutionize the way we get around, as well as our military's battlefield capabilities," Peters said in the release. "It is vital that these technologies are protected from transactions that could pose a threat to national security by eroding America's technological advantages."

By:  Dustin Walsh
Source: Crain's Detroit Business