Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to keep Michigan’s ‘pole position’ in autonomous vehicles with new agency

February 25, 2020

MLive.com

By Emily Lawler

A new state agency and other administrative changes will help Michigan maintain its “pole position” in the auto industry as it branches into mobility and automation, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told a gathering of education and mobility experts at the MICHAuto summit on Tuesday.

“In the state that put the world on wheels and that’s home to some of the most innovating, driven workers on the planet, we must continue to work to solidify Michigan as a global leader in mobility,” Whitmer said in a statement.

The mobility industry includes things like autonomous, electric and connected vehicles and technologies.

On the hood of a car, Whitmer signed two executive orders: one creating the Michigan Office of Future Mobility under the and another creating the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification. Both are housed under the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The Michigan Office of Future Mobility, to bed led by a soon-to-be-named director, will coordinate mobility-related initiatives across areas like economic development, labor and infrastructure efforts.

The orders also abolish the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, which was created by a 2016 law and housed in the Michigan Department of Transportation, and create the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification. The new council will have 17 voting members and advise the governor and legislature on changes to state policy.

Both aim to capitalize on Michigan’s heritage as an auto state, but also move the state into the future “mobility” sector, focusing on things like autonomous vehicles.

The moves “will help us build on the success we’ve seen in the automotive and mobility sectors,” Whitmer said ahead of signing the executive orders.

Jeff Donofrio, director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said he’s looking for somebody who understands the industry very well and can help Michigan pivot to the future of the mobility industry.

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said Whitmer “is building and expanding on the work to ensure that Michigan’s companies, infrastructure and people are ready to compete, ready to win, and ready to shape the next century of mobility.”

The executive orders earned praise from industry executives.

“FCA applauds the creation of the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and looks forward to working with the Governor and her team to help ensure Michigan remains the home of the quickly evolving mobility industry,” said Stephen J. Buckley, FCA senior technical fellow – electrical engineering in a press release.

Officials from Ford and General Motors also applauded the move.

Whitmer said in order to keep the state’s “pole position” in the industry she is also focused on bolstering the state’s workforce and fixing the state’s roads.

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Detroit Regional Chamber’s Core Principles on Auto Insurance Reform

With auto insurance debates heating up in Lansing, the Detroit Regional Chamber is highly involved in the discussions working with bipartisan legislators and the governor’s office. The Chamber membership and Board are united in the recognition that the high cost of auto insurance is a critical issue that impacts our state’s economic development, talent attraction, and citizen well-being, and must be addressed.

The Chamber is eager to support legislation that meets the following criteria:

  • Result in a statewide and quantifiable reduction in auto insurance rates.
  • Recognize that rate reduction must be even greater in urban areas. Even a 20% reduction in urban areas leaves auto insurance unaffordable for low-income residents.
  • Reduce the number of uninsured drivers through rate reduction and increased mobility options for low-income residents.
  • Maintain Michigan’s high-quality health care delivery system.
  • Reduce insurance related fraud.

Detroit Regional Chamber Reform Vision

Auto insurance is a statewide issue that demands to be addressed. While our membership does not have a consensus view regarding detailed solutions, the Chamber supports the following core principles.

  • Reform should provide additional oversight of attendant care, particularly when delivered by relatives of the injured.
  • Michigan should pursue insurance fraud at all levels through a strong fraud authority or another enforcement mechanism.
  • Any proposed regulation of reimbursement rates should consider:

– The impact on motorists requiring catastrophic care, particularly care in trauma centers.

– The ability of health care providers to provide quality care.

– The need to lower rates for drivers across geographic, socioeconomic, and other demographic factors.

– Michigan’s insurance rates are high across the state, however, drivers in urban areas are disproportionately impacted. Reviewing the factors that cause high rates should be a special focus of policymakers.

  • Uninsured drivers in high-cost areas, like the city of Detroit, are left with few alternatives to driving illegally because of the region’s lack of effective and efficient public transportation. The number of uninsured drivers is a key component of insurance costs and the region’s consistent failure to provide mobility options has exacerbated the problem.

The Chamber Board endorsed these principles in 2017. The Chamber’s Government Relations team urges that all impacted parties must be at the table and compromise equally – there is no one single aspect of this challenge that can solve this problem – or can escape reform.