Bryan Salesky Outlines Pathway to a Connected, Autonomous Future

In a one-on-one conversation with Argo AI CEO and Co-founder Bryan Salesky at the 2020 MICHauto Summit, “Autoline” host John McElroy emphasized the accelerated pace of the autonomous and connected vehicle movement over the past few years.

“The rate of improvement in autonomy was breathtaking,” said McElroy.

Salesky acknowledged that progress will only continue to pick up. While the technology hasn’t quite taken hold in the mainstream, enormous progress has been made on the backend. Salesky reinforced the gradual nature of these developments and the nuanced steps necessary to make it a reality. Real-world data and examples are essential to building these systems, and that observation and analysis takes testing and time.

“I try to be a voice of reason in this whole sector,” said Salesky. “It’s going to be a gradual ramp. There’s a lot more at stake here than just building the technologies. There’s also getting communities and cities and people to raise their education and awareness of the good things that autonomous vehicles can provide.”

Salesky then asserted the importance of leading with safety rather than speed. It’s a consideration he and the Argo AI team take not only in developing technology but also in selecting suppliers and partners.

“We have a responsibility to put safety in front of everything,” said Salesky. “When you’re working on something this complex, putting arbitrary timelines on it is not helpful to anybody.”

Salesky went on to paint the picture of what the autonomous vehicle movement looks like in the immediate future. While the technology is still developing and carries a significant cost, the vehicles will likely be part of shared service fleets before they’re practical for individual ownership.

In closing, Salesky explained that the next major phase of development will occur on the business side. Experimentation is underway to create sustainable, productive business models capable of supporting these technologies.

Thank you to MEDC/PlanetM for sponsoring this session.

Diversity and Inclusion: An Industry Imperative

Diversity and inclusion is a top industry priority now more than ever. A panel moderated by “Autoline” host John McElroy and featuring Margaret Baxter, executive director of the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement (CADIA); Jatinder-Bir “Jay” Sandhu, CEO of NYX, LLC; and Kristen Tabar, group vice president of vehicle development and engineering at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development, identified best practices for satisfying the indisputable need for a stronger culture of inclusion.

The speakers’ collective sentiment on D&I was that it takes continuous effort at all levels of an organization – institutional to interpersonal implementation. While incremental action has proven effective for many teams, an authentic, applicable D&I culture starts at the top with leadership.  

“It doesn’t matter where you start. Just get going,” said Baxter. “You have to create a safe space for people to have these conversations and let people ask the difficult questions.”  

With a highly diverse workforce, NYX, LLC finds success in embracing and accommodating differences. Its facilities keep libraries of multi-lingual project instructions, new employees are partnered with a buddy from a similar cultural background to get acclimated, and the company invests in on-site ELS training before and after shifts.  

“It’s in our DNA that we’re going to look at different cultures and accept them,” said Sandhu.  

The panelists also emphasized the inherent business benefits of strong D&I practices. Staying mindful of the audiences being served will encourage diversity in personnel and ideas to reflect those needs and generate better results.  

“We really believe that innovation comes from this diversity of thought and that inclusiveness of hearing everyone’s voice, including all of our customers,” said Tabar.  

Finally, the group agreed that a thriving culture of D&I is rooted in listening – both accepting different perspectives from outside of the organization and incorporating internal feedback for process improvement.   

Thanks to Toyota for sponsoring this session. 


Growth in the Global Market

At the 2020 MICHauto Summit, Michael Robinet, executive director of automotive advisory services at IHS Markit, outlined factors in his keynote address that will impact Michigan’s position in the global automotive mobility landscape and provided insight into the steps necessary to affirm the state’s leadership among other emerging markets. 

Robinet explained that IHS Markit provides vehicle forecasts on powertrain electrification, autonomy, and mobility. As part of the advisory team, Robinet works with suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to help better understand what’s happening in the industry. 

Suppliers and manufacturers look at two different factors when it comes to growthRobinet said, specifying that they consider both the data monetization of autonomous and education content, along with how to drive more volume and establish new dealer networks. 

“Our business has long been driven [by] scale and that mantra continues today,” said Robinet. “When you’re designing new electrification or autonomous structures, it’s a lot easier to afford if the number you’re dividing it by is an awful lot bigger than your competitor.”  

Robinet also noted some longterm trends emerging including that while sports utilities or crossovers will remain close to 50% of the market, that growth is slowing. And pickup trucks have likely leveled out for now in terms of their share of the market. 

Michigan has remained strong over the last decade and the volumes are still quite strong, Robinet said.  

“You see that global OEMs are really refocusing their efforts on using existing powertrains, harnessing new levels of electrification, and looking for where the data is going to have value in the future.” 

Executive Director of MICHauto Glenn Stevens Jr. and host of “Autoline” John McElroy joined Robinet onstage to continue the discussion. 

The group talked about how the industry has changed, and where it is headed in the next decade. Leadership has shifted drastically in the last ten years, noted Stevens. 

“When it comes to issues that are important, for example, diversity and inclusion, it was mentioned that it either comes from the top and from the troops, or it doesn’t work and it’s not relevant and impactful,” said Stevens. 

McElroy directed the discussion to how the U.S. needs to be thinking about the importance of the automotive and mobility industry. We are competing against countries that have industrial policies that are taking jobs away from us, he explained 

“We’re going to have to do things that make sure it’s on more of a level playing field,” said McElroy. 

Industry Diversification: Defense Meets Automotive

The 2020 MICHauto Summit brought two major industries together to discuss pathways to collaboration in a panel featuring Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Michigan and Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber Tammy CarnrikeDirector of Next Generation Combat Vehicle for the U.S. Army Futures Command Brigadier General Ross Coffman, and President and CEO of Safety Technology Holdings and Humanetics Innovative Solutions Christopher O’Connor 

Host of “Autoline” John McElroy, who moderated the panel, asked O’Connor how companies like Humanetics can become suppliers to the military. 

“It’s challenging in terms of identifying what the need is and how to apply that product, and then how to be competitive with the other players,” said O’Connor. 

Much of what already exists in companies also exists in the military, added Coffman. He shared that he wants to see more of Detroit and Michigan become involved with partnerships and collaborations. The autonomous vehicle space is huge for the military here, he noted. 

More than 60 years ago, Humanetics was developing aircraft ejection seats, said O’Connor. Most of the original products the company created were military based. 

“I spent 35 years in the army and in the army reserves,” said O’Connor. “Our introduction into the military and trying to work with developing products for injuries was near and dear to our background.” 

McElroy discussed with Carnrike how her role as civilian aide ties into her Chamber positionAs civilian aide, Carnrike is the eyes and the ears in the state of Michigan for the army, she explained. Her job is to help with recruitment and look for new opportunities for collaboration with the business industry, particularly automotive and manufacturing.  

“Most people don’t understand that the US Army is like a very large corporation,” said Carnrike. “Bringing in my Chamber job and understanding our business community through our MICHauto program, there’s such an opportunity for cross pollination.”  


Thanks to Kettering University for sponsoring this session. 

John McElroy: Michigan’s Auto Industry Embarks on a Dangerous Decade

“Autoline” host John McElroy encouraged attendees at the 2020 MICHauto Summit in his keynote address to be proactive, not reactive, when planning for the industry’s next decade. McElroy emphasized that automakers will face both direct and indirect costs in their innovative practices. 

“We are embarking on a very dangerous decade,” said McElroy. “The traditional auto industry is under threat.”  

Starting with electric vehicle development, McElroy discussed how automakers are building EVs because of government regulations, not consumer demand. This results in automakers not making money on production. Additionally, electric vehicles only feature 10 engine forgings – a fraction of traditional internal combustion engines. This results in less work for the foraging industry and potential future foraging plant shutdowns.   

In the race to develop autonomous vehicles, automakers spend massive research and design budgets, sometimes more than $1 billion per year. And while McElroy agreed with the idea of spending more money on autonomous vehicles, he pointed out that it is a heavy financial burden with no tangible return on investment (at least right now). 

McElroy considered aspects of Michigan’s economy that need to improve for the state to lead the next decade of automotive and mobility: 

  • Nurture the startup economy and look to other locations where they are successful. 
  • Work with the defense industry to recruit the best and brightest. 
  • Welcome and support incoming immigrants as they look for industry jobs. 
  • Continue to collaborate and find ways to better Michigan’s education system 

By having a genuine sense of urgency in these focus areas, McElroy believes Michigan will be in a better position to lead the next decade in the global mobility revolution.