Sen. Peters’ Remarks on Michigan’s Role in the Future of Mobility

Peters Calls for Collaboration to Keep Michigan at the Forefront of the Automotive Industry

TROY, MI - U.S. Senator Gary Peters spoke at Automation Alley today to discuss the future of mobility and Michigan’s role in the transformation. Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where he is the Senate’s biggest champion for connected and automated vehicles. He is also the co-founder of the bipartisan Smart Transportation Caucus, which encourages policies that support emerging advanced vehicle technologies. Automation Alley is a technology business association working to improve Southeast Michigan’s economic competitiveness by promoting growth and talent development in advanced manufacturing, defense and entrepreneurship.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you Tom, for that kind introduction, and I’d like to thank Automation Alley for inviting me here today. It’s a pleasure to talk with so many of you about a subject I am extremely passionate about – the future of mobility. I’d also like to thank Ken Rogers, who recently retired from the Alley, for his continued partnership and dedication to the businesses and organizations in Metro Detroit.

Under his leadership, Automation Alley grew to over 1,000 members, and we are so grateful for Ken’s vision for accelerating innovation in Southeast Michigan. I was glad to work closely with him and the Alley during his tenure.

“We’re excited for this next chapter at the Alley and look forward to working with Tom and Alley members over the coming years.

“I’m going to give some remarks this morning and at the end we will have time for Q & A, but I want this to be an ongoing dialogue between us.

“In the months and years to come, I want to work with you all to help solve the greatest challenges facing the automotive industry - and to ensure our region remains the leader. I want you to get to know my staff here at home and in Washington, DC. We want to hear your insights and advice and will count on you to keep us informed so we can be your best advocates. Thank you again for being here this morning.

“During the Summer of 2015 I went to the floor of the United States Senate to give my first major speech. I spoke about Michigan’s history in moving America forward to new frontiers of exceptionalism and our opportunities as America searches for the next big thing that will advance our economy and our society.  It was Michigan that helped establish a right to public primary education as a cornerstone of our society, and we continued and expanded that legacy with our institutions of higher learning.

“But it was our mastery of manufacturing and automation that put Michigan on the international map and helped the United States establish its industrial and military might. But computerization changed how we manufacture and what we manufacture. And in the age of computers, California became king.

“As Tom just discussed, we’re in an unprecedented era of technological invention. Only a decade ago, cars still had CD players. iPhones weren’t around yet, and the Internet of Things didn’t even exist. Today, we have an ever evolving innovation ecosystem – with advanced manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and connected and automated vehicles. We as a society  need to figure out how to foster this broader ecosystem so we can capitalize on their benefits, including cleaner energy, new economic growth, improved safety and health, and greater accessibility for the elderly and disabled populations. 

“Today we are here to talk about the cars of the future. Computers and cars have merged together. Certain high-end vehicles on the market today have more than 100 million lines of code.

“That’s nearly five times the lines of code in an F-35 fighter jet and nearly ten times that of an Android mobile device operating system. It’s even more astounding when you think about how there’s only 60 million lines of code in all of Facebook. I just got back from California, where I visited with a tech company that told me the graphic processing unit board that runs their autonomous vehicles system goes through 24 trillion calculations per second!

“So here in Southeast Michigan, we are in a competition to create the future, and we have some clear advantages.  One thing folks are learning is that making automobiles isn’t an easy business.  Just last week it was reported that Apple is abandoning its effort to build its own car, and will focus its efforts on building an autonomous driving software system. The West Coast is learning that it is not easy to make a machine that safely moves your family at 65 miles an hour.

“Here in Michigan, we know how to do that. Now the race is on to see who can make cars moving 65 miles per hour and have them drive themselves, talk to each other, the infrastructure, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists – all while delivering its passengers safely to their destination.  But will this change be a disruption of the auto industry? Or will it result in a Michigan-led transformation of the auto industry? And how do we create flexible policies that can adapt and keep pace with this rapid innovation?

“From Wall Street to Silicon Valley to Washington there are people and businesses that see the auto industry as ripe for disruption.  But disruption is the correct adjective if you are a bystander – if change is happening to you and around you. When we are affecting change in our own industry, it’s not disruption but a transformation. And that is what Michigan stands on the brink of – a transformation of the auto industry that we lead and we control, and with it the destiny and fortunes of our state. 

“Last week the Detroit Free-Press reported that in the past six months, two-thirds of all self-driving auto related jobs are based in the Bay Area. Of the 350 job listings, only 15 are located in Michigan. Companies like Google, Bosch, Uber, and Zoox – a little known company valued at $1 billion that will attempt to rival Tesla – are all seeking to hire top talent with computer science skills to give them a competitive edge. And they are working to develop and train this top talent. While I was in California, I saw a billboard advertising training programs in autonomous vehicle development. And I learned about Udacity, a for-profit education organization founded by Stanford grads that offers nano-degrees in artificial intelligence and certificates in automated vehicle development.

“These facts are proof of the work we need to do to change people’s minds about our region. We need to produce this talent at Michigan universities and we need to retain these folks by ensuring that they will have a competitive job upon graduation.

“We also need to do more to recruit those from outside our region who are otherwise drawn to Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh, Austin and Chicago. Michigan companies need to show prospective hires that they can tackle the interesting and revolutionary challenges that will define the future of transportation and tech right here in Michigan, where their compensation packages can go a lot further. We need billboards in other communities that show them they can work on the most exciting technological challenges of our day and own a great home for one fifth of the cost. We need to establish that if they aren’t doing the work here in Michigan, then they are missing out because Michigan is where it’s happening.

“I’m so pleased to join all of you today, because your companies and organizations are in the driver’s seats.  We have the opportunity to drive this technological transformation—but we are also in a fierce national and international competition to be the industrial, intellectual and academic leader when it comes to connected and autonomous vehicles.

“Henry Ford’s adaptation of the assembly line was one of the original disruptive technologies and few American innovations have changed the modern world like the automobile. Cars and trucks are now woven into the fabric of American life and culture.

“But just as they changed the country, cars changed Michigan – bringing us industrial power and wealth. Leading in the future of connected and autonomous vehicles gives us a chance to build a new strong position in the economy to come. Because self-driving cars aren’t the end goal – they are the beginning of building a whole new technological landscape in our region. In many ways, it’s the moonshot of artificial intelligence and once it’s accomplished we will see exponential advances in other areas. If we dominate in self-driving cars, Michigan will be positioned to dominate in the construction of an entire innovation ecosystem based on Artificial Intelligence—just as California has dominated tech companies and Pittsburgh is leading in robotics.

“How will we lead the transformation?  We need to promote partnerships between industry, government, academic and R&D communities. 

“Just as they have been the backbone of our current and past accomplishments, they will be even more crucial to our future successes.

“Many groups are coming together here in Michigan to work toward a common goal of bringing self-driving cars to our roads. We’re already reaping the benefits of collaborative work at the MCity testing facility in Ann Arbor. 

“Soon, joint advanced research will take place on a much larger scale at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, where we’ll be testing, validating and certifying the vehicles that will be driving America in the coming years. I’m very excited about the possibilities that ACM offers to a variety of stakeholders, mimicking real-world conditions and ensuring new technologies are developed safely.

“I have been involved with ACM since its conception and recently have had the pleasure of bringing major players in the mobility space from Washington to visit MCity and the future site of ACM – including DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, NHTSA Administrator Rosekind, and the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Jason Miller. All of my guests were impressed by our region’s collaborative effort to make ACM a reality – our research universities, automotive industry, economic development and business communities, and state and local governments are all unified in this effort. I am hopeful that the spotlight we have shown on ACM will lead to its designation as a national testing and validation center for connected and automated vehicles.

“These collaborations are critical to ensuring that Michigan is the home of connected and automated vehicle technology R&D – and the high tech manufacturing it will spur.  We have the opportunity to create new industry clusters with ACM and within the broader innovation ecosystem – but the competition is steep. Texas and California are also vying for these high paying jobs – to say nothing about our competitors in Europe and Asia.  Winning this race and maintaining Michigan’s role as the auto capital of the world will take continued collaboration and cooperation.

“But in order to succeed, we must never lose sight of the fact that this is about more than just our economic success or solving a cool technological challenge - it is about people’s lives. Just last year, over 35,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes.  We saw the largest annual percentage rise in deaths on our roads in the past 50 years. Connected and automated vehicle technologies have the potential to drastically reduce this deeply troubling statistic. Research suggests that up to 94% of vehicle accidents are the result of human error. With safe deployment, automated technologies can significantly decrease this number and help our loved ones, friends and neighbors arrive safely.

“We also need better access to transportation, reduced congestion, and more energy efficiencies. We’re seeing a lot of this progress already – and know there’s a lot more ahead of us. That is why I’m pleased that the federal government is fully engaged in the future of mobility. Last month, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released its groundbreaking Federal Automated Vehicle Policy. 

“This marks a major milestone in the effort to bring driverless cars to America’s roads and ensure our country remains the world leader in next-generation transportation.

“I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about this, and about the roles the government and innovators like you will play.

“The federal policy contains four key components. The first outlines a 15-point safety assessment for the safe design, development, testing and deployment of highly automated vehicles.  This is a meaningful first step to provide federal vehicle guidance for manufacturers.

“DOT has indicated this safety assessment will likely become a mandatory requirement for manufacturers, and they’ll be working with industry to iron out its parameters and refine it over time. It’s important to get this right, and approaching this assessment as a living document ensures we can adapt quickly to ongoing technical advances and innovation.

“The second component outlines the distinct federal and state roles for regulation of automated vehicles – moving us toward a uniform national framework for regulation in this space.

“The federal government will have the lead role in regulating the performance of highly automated vehicles, while states will retain responsibilities for vehicle licensing and registration, traffic laws and enforcement, and insurance and liability regimes.

“Michigan has led the country in taking proactive steps by introducing a suite of bills that will get automated cars and trucks onto the roads for safe testing and use. I applaud these efforts and encourage our state and local leaders to work closely with USDOT to meet the goals of the federal guidance -  and in particular, to ramp up efforts to address driver education and training.

“We know consumers aren’t yet sold on the benefits of these new vehicles. We’ve got to educate ourselves and build consumer trust to ensure safe adoption.

“Third, the policy makes a federal commitment to expedite the safe introduction of automated vehicles into the marketplace. The Department of Transportation will streamline a number of procedures to be more responsive to consumers and innovative manufacturers alike. The time saved from these changes means more expeditious and substantive dialog between manufacturers, consumers and the government.  DOT’s improved responsiveness will further underpin a more cohesive and agile approach to regulation.

“Finally, the policy presents a number of novel considerations that Congress should closely examine. This includes new tools and authorities that DOT might need in the future as automated vehicle technology advances and we begin to see deployment on a wider scale.

“Many of our existing motor vehicle laws and regulations were developed decades ago.

“The most advanced on-board electronics in our trucks were our radios, and we couldn’t imagine putting a single computer in our cars – let alone the 70 computer systems that some vehicles have today.

“We’ll have to revisit our approaches and adapt our policies, taking care not stifle innovation. But it is my belief that we have to have the highest standards for manufacturing, engineering, and security at the outset.  We really only have one shot to sell these technologies to the driving public – the stakes are high, and failure is not an option.

“I encourage all of you to review this policy and to reach out to my staff in the Michigan and in DC to share your perspectives or submit your view to DOT during the open comment period that is open through November 22.

“The realization of these policies depends on public feedback. All of you are working in this space every day, and have valuable insights into how to make the future of mobility a reality. Success depends on your collaboration.

“Now, we realize there are still plenty of unknowns when it comes to highly automated and self-driving vehicles. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and as the co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Smart Transportation Caucus, I am committed to leading these important discussions on Capitol Hill.

“But we also need to be having discussions right here in Michigan. We need to bring everyone together to understand the possibilities and challenges facing the transformation of the automotive industry.

“I’m going to take a few moments to highlight three areas where I think Michigan can lead the way: cybersecurity, infrastructure, and workforce recruitment and economic development.

“First, we’ve all seen the news reports about the potential for hackers to interfere with onboard vehicle systems. And with our cars and trucks using so much more hardware and software, the potential rises for system vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity and privacy must be thoughtful and foundational tenants of innovation in this era of mobility.

“Second, automated auto technologies have a greater chance of success when paired with consistent and modern infrastructure. We’ll also need to partner locally and nationally to make sure our roads, signals and lights can support the introduction of these cars - both now and in the future.

“I often brag about how Michigan’s Department of Transportation is leading amongst the states in preparing our roads for what’s next in mobility. And I am working at the federal level to support the state buildout of smart infrastructure.

“Last year, I was proud to sponsor legislation that was signed into law as part of a comprehensive five-year highway bill that allows states to utilize existing federal highway funds for vehicle-to-infrastructure planning and deployment. I look forward to continued collaboration with MDOT and to hearing from them about how the federal government can further assist their efforts.

“We also need to invest in Smart City initiatives, which offer unprecedented opportunities to bring transportation to underserved communities, improve traffic conditions, and reduce motor-vehicle accidents and fatalities.

“Finally, we know that technological innovation can impact economies of all sizes – from small towns to national and global markets. This means a lot of changes for our workforce.

“Michigan is home to many of the finest colleges and universities in this country. Highly automated cars offer fantastic technical and research opportunities, and we want to continue that development right here in our state. We need to attract the top innovators to work on our exciting problems, and help them build their careers right here in Michigan.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll be back here at Automation Alley to host a series of roundtables on these three topics. We’ll use these opportunities to talk in depth about promoting innovation, addressing regulation and policy gaps, and building our community partnerships here in Michigan. We want to our experts to build a dialogue around the future mobility, and I can’t think of a better place to do that than right here with Tom Kelly and Automation Alley.

“These conversations are important to me because I want to hear from you – the experts in the auto industry – about the challenges we face. I need your help and your perspective so that I can better address these issues when Congress convenes next year.  Your advice and insights can help me be the best possible advocate for our state and our auto industry in the United States Senate.

“I also want to have these conversations so you can hear directly from me about how I see the urgency to address the challenges we face.  The world of connected and autonomous vehicles provides Michigan with incredible new opportunities, but it doesn’t come without a few challenges as well. There are some in Congress and in Washington who want to use fear to stand in the way of deploying these new technologies. We also have competitors across the country and around the globe that see themselves as the natural fit to be the epicenter of automated vehicle technology. None of them have the same dense nexus of engineering talent, manufacturing and auto R&D – and we need to make sure they don’t have better regional and industry coordination either.

“In order to succeed in this national and global competition to recruit and retain talent we need to work together to weave a well-integrated ecosphere that will be welcoming to both our homegrown talent and new Michiganders who will make our local economy stronger and our state more prosperous. Everyone needs to be aligned – our universities, our companies, our philanthropies and foundations, our state, local, and federal government leaders – and everyone needs to work together to ensure our state leads the mobility transformation across the United States and around the world.

“We have a rich history here in Michigan. We put America on wheels and created an arsenal that liberated the world from fascism. Just eight years ago, people were predicting the financial ruin of the auto industry. Today, our autos have come roaring back with record sales. 

“In each generation, we stare down transformational change with its potential for disruption and harness it to make America stronger. We have a bright future here in Michigan.

“I look forward to our collaboration in the months and years to come to realize this goal and I’m happy to take your questions and comments at this time.”