Driverless cars capture Metro Detroit’s imagination

Metro Detroiters have always been about cars and driving. The two have been practically inseparable for the last 100 years. Now in the 21st century, motorists are taking that relationship to the next level by separating the two.

Developing technology for driverless cars is the next big thing in tech. Companies of all shapes and sizes and locations are pursuing it, ranging from local automakers to big tech firms in Silicon Valley to small college robotics teams.

Michigan's state legislature has introduced comprehensive legislation to pave the way for autonomous vehicles, according to a recent Detroit News story. The idea is to make the state a leader in what is widely viewed as the next big thing in automotive technology.

Members of the Big Three have brokered partnerships with big names in Silicon Valley to make inroads in autonomous vehicle technology. GM has invested in Lyft, the ride-sharing startup to create the equivalent of driverless taxis. Ford is partnering with Google to pursue similar technology. Google announced plans this week, according to a Detroit Free Press story, to open a vehicle development center in Novi for its Self-Driving Car Project.

All of this recent activity is built on years worth of research and development into it by the engineers and innovators across Metro Detroit, primarily in the region's research universities. 
 
For instance, robotics teams from universities around the world will compete in the 24th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition at Oakland University next week. Their teams will build and operate autonomous robotic vehicles on an outdoor course with defined lanes, GPS waypoints and obstacles.

"Smart cars with advanced safety and self-driving features are already here today," says KaC Cheok, co-chairman and co-founder of Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition and an engineering professor Oakland University. "The Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition challenges students around the world, in their college years, to become involved with engineering and technologies that lead into autonomous vehicles."

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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