Recently, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II announced that Michigan will enable four new mobility services to help address challenges across the state related to sustainable transit, roadway safety, parking and staffing shortages in the very viable service industry.
In partnership with key universities, whose students and programs are already helping to shape the future of mobility, four companies – Bluecity, GEKOT Inc., Mouvit and Nimbus – will receive $285,000 in total funding through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to test and deploy mobility projects across the state, including in Ann Arbor, Rochester, Dearborn, Novi and Farmington Hills.
“(This) announcement represents our state’s continued investment in innovative mobility solutions that can change the world,” said Gilchrist. “It demonstrates the value of partnerships between the state, the companies working to develop future mobility, and the universities training the talent that will keep our mobility ecosystems moving forward. Together, we are showing the world that Michigan knows how to get it done.”
University partners have long been key collaborators on grant projects funded by the state of Michigan, as they offer unique learning environments with resources that help facilitate the development and implementation of new mobility technologies. Past grant recipients – including ADASTEC, KUHMUTE, Fleet Lab and P3Mobility – are jointly exploring mobility solutions with university partners.
- ADASTEC, in partnership with Michigan State University and bus manufacturer Karsan recently deployed a rider-ready autonomous bus on the college’s campus.
- KUHMUTE recently deployed its micro-mobility technology in Flint to offer accessible, low-cost transportation to community members.
- Fleet Lab is on track to electrify St. Mary Catholic Central High School’s transit system this year.
- P3Mobility became a key partner in the University of Michigan Smart Intersections Project, which most recently announced the launch of 20 smart intersections in Ann Arbor.
In addition, Michigan State University received its own Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grant to develop a mobile waste-to-electricity solution to allow small- and medium-scale farm operations to convert organic wastes into electricity for electric vehicles or farm equipment.
“Michigan’s universities have played a key role in establishing our state as the center of the automotive industry in the 21st century – a role that continues to be vital as the state competes to lead the world in sustainable, safe and more equitable mobility,” said Dr. Britany Affolter-Caine, executive director of the University Research Corridor. “The University Research Corridor (URC), an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, leads the nation in developing talent for the mobility industry – more than university clusters in California, Texas and Massachusetts. In the past five years, the URC has conducted more than $542.4 million in mobility-related research and development, including work that involves autonomous vehicles, crosswalk and curb sensors, cybersecurity, consumer experiences and the social changes new mobility technology will bring.”
Launched by the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform provides grants to mobility and electrification organizations looking to deploy solutions in the state of Michigan.
“As our communities continue to expand and evolve, we must stay conscious of emerging mobility challenges – like optimizing smart traffic signals or providing parking in spaces with extremely limited capacities – and continually work to implement solutions to address them,” said Charlie Tyson, Technology Activation Manager at MEDC. “We are thrilled to offer support to these companies and their university partners as they reimagine what safer, more sustainable and efficient mobility ecosystems can look like.”
This announcement represents the latest in a series of grants awarded through the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform. This round’s Michigan Mobility Funding Platform Grant recipients are as follows:
Bluecity ($100,000 – Ann Arbor)
Bluecity, a company working to transform transportation infrastructure through the use of real-time, multimodal traffic data, aims to help cities achieve Vision Zero – a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy and equitable mobility.
With the assistance of MMFP funding, and in partnership with the University of Michigan (UM), MCity and Velodyne Lidar, Bluecity will deploy its real-time traffic monitoring and data analytics solution at five different intersections across Ann Arbor to study road users’ behavior. The technology, which uses lidar sensors and artificial intelligence (AI), will enable the city to monitor key safety metrics 24/7 – including traffic conflicts, speeding and red-light runners – and proactively improve the safety of vulnerable road users.
Bluecity’s sophisticated detection algorithm will also provide the city of Ann Arbor with detailed signal performance measures to optimize traffic light timing and operations. Using these analytics, Ann Arbor will ultimately be able to identify operational issues and enable new procedures to advance traffic systems, improving safety and convenience for roadway users in the process. Additionally, UM partners will be able to build new applications on top of Bluecity’s standard solution, including sharing real-time traffic data with connected vehicles.
“Bluecity is solving a global issue in the traffic industry with a cost-effective, reliable and accurate monitoring and data analytics solution. We are excited to have been chosen by the State of Michigan to help improve road safety and mobility thanks to our innovative technology that respects privacy,” said Asad Lesani, CEO and co-founder of Bluecity. “Improving road safety and mobility requires collaboration between stakeholders, from technology providers to cities. I’m thrilled that Bluecity took that path working with our great partners, the City of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan and Velodyne.”
GEKOT Inc. ($70,000 – Rochester)
Rental micro-mobility options like e-scooters and e-bikes have become increasingly popular across the nation. The vehicles typically utilized in the states are purchased from overseas stock and stripped-down to the basics. As such, local governments and fleet operators have limited hardware options to address unique mobility concerns related to accidents, injuries, and theft.
GEKOT Inc, has partnered with Razor USA and Oakland University (OU) to help address this need. GEKOT will integrate its technical solutions package into Razor electric scooters soon to be deployed on the campus of Oakland University. The “add-on” electronics package introduces a suite of low-cost solutions designed to mitigate collisions with hazards while deterring theft, abuse, and misuse of rental scooters. The campus-wide study will evaluate the effectiveness of GEKOT’s innovative solutions.
The GEKOT team is working to establish Detroit as the center of engineering excellence in micro-mobility and light electric vehicles. Currently, the key players in this industry are located on the West Coast and internationally. The intention is that electric scooter and e-bike companies will soon consider Detroit expertise to develop their vehicles. Usage and system performance data from the OU e-scooter deployment will inform future wide-scale development and assist GEKOT in building the bridge between the West Coast and Detroit markets.
“Issues related to safety, theft and abuse are key concerns of the growing micro-mobility industry,” said Dan Champoux, president of GEKOT Inc. “Fortunately, Detroit automakers have many years of experience utilizing technology to solve these same problems. We are leveraging automotive ‘lessons learned’ to create right-sized solutions for light electric vehicles like e-bikes and e-scooters.”
Mouvit ($100,000 – Dearborn, Novi, Farmington Hills)
Nationwide staffing shortages have increased pressure on businesses across industries to do more with less staff. To help address this need, Mouvit, in partnership with Intent Design, Stantec, Lawrence Technological University, CAMACO, Henry Ford Museum and Novi Bowl, will use autonomous robots to help minimize staffing shortages, and ultimately improve the customer experience at key locations throughout Michigan.
Mouvit’s plug-and-play platform includes mobility-specific hardware and software that allows the company to develop custom autonomous robots that can improve the efficiency of business operations – including moving goods, providing food and beverage vending, or advertising. Mouvit and its partners will deploy these robots to service Henry Ford Museum, Novi Bowl and CAMACO. Once deployed, the robots will help to provide an improved level of service, 24/7, with minimal venue staff supervision. Additionally, visitors can interact with the robots using Mouvit’s smartphone app.
Mouvit’s cost-effective, customizable platform enables companies to implement specialized automated service solutions without the high barrier of development cost and time.
“With this grant, our robots will be operational at several additional locations, allowing for real-world activation of multiple services. This sets the stage for Mouvit’s growth, demonstrating our philosophy of industry-agnostic mobility,” said Milan Bidare, founder and CEO of Mouvit. “We look forward to enabling Michigan businesses to serve their customers better with the utilization of our platform.”
Urban mobility is increasingly becoming an issue of space. As city centers and other population areas continue to develop and expand, so too must mobility options for residents – but between vehicle emissions, tight navigation spaces and limited parking options, it can be difficult to justify a traditional vehicle in an urban environment.
To help develop an environmentally and spatially friendly urban mobility solution, Nimbus received a $15,000 MMFP testing grant. The grant dollars will enable the ongoing testing and development of Nimbus’ compact EV at the proving grounds of Kettering University’s GM Mobility Research Center. Ultimately, the EV will be deployed in urban areas as both a private and communal method of transportation.
The Nimbus vehicle produces roughly 10% of the emissions of a full-sized car, and only one-third of the emissions that a traditional EV would produce. It has been designed to travel more than 90 miles on a single charge, and its slim build allows it to both auto stabilize around sharp turns as well as navigate and park in spaces too small for traditional passenger vehicles. Additionally, its sensing and AI capabilities monitor the road and help to prevent accidents.
“One of the most pressing goals we have as a human species is to try to slow the pace of climate change. Electric vehicles are a good start, but we need to push ourselves to find more new solutions, like our compact vehicles, especially for city spaces that are already densely developed,” said Lihang Nong, CEO of Nimbus. “We are looking forward to continuing the testing of our technology with the assistance of this grant, and are confident that soon our vehicles will be helping to make roadways more accessible and sustainable across the state and country.”
Nimbus is currently accepting pre-orders for its compact EV.
Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grants focus on catalyzing and scaling mobility solutions that improve environmental sustainability by encouraging electric vehicle adoption and charging infrastructure buildout, increasing access to affordable and reliable transportation options, and modernizing existing transportation systems. OFME, in partnership with Charge Up Michigan and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), reviews and administers the grant applications, which are accepted on a rolling basis at michiganbusiness.org/mobility-funding.
To learn more about how Michigan is leading in transportation mobility and electrification, visit www.michiganbusiness.org/mobility.