Susan Wagner of KLA Corporation spoke up front at this year’s TechTalk out of Ann Arbor on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Inclusion gives companies the diversity of thought and experience to be as creative and innovative as possible. “We should work together to life one another up. It does not mean that just because others succeed we will fail… all boats rise together,” she said. “KLA is a global company. COVID’s impact can vary,” Wagner said. “The semiconductor industry is playing a crucial role to enable work from home. Many things are changing, some for good,” she said. “Electronics are more important than ever to keep us connected.”
The Ann Arbor Mobility Summit: Autonomous, Electrification, & Mobility as a Service Are Transforming The Future of Transport
Kicking off this year’s expanded Ann Arbor Mobility Summit was a panel discussing the “Changing Face of Automotive in the New Normal” with Senior Product and Strategic Planning Manager at Waymo Cristi Landy, Bill Frykman who works on connected vehicles at Ford and leads City Solutions Team, and Kara Grasso who works on solutions for mobility, autonomy and electrification for Denso. Moderating was Carla Bailo, president of the Center for Automotive Research, which provides independent research on the automotive industry.
It’s finally here: Ann Arbor’s annual tech week, a2tech360, starts today and runs all next week with 16 online tech events highlighting the latest innovations and trends in mobility tech, Midwest investment, software, security startups, and life sciences.
Passenger cars and trucks have become rolling software updates, and while that has sped up product development cycles, it has created a big problem. A lot of the automotive industry has been updating software post vehicle sale through dealership recalls. As you can imagine, with dozens of systems using different software in a single car, that could become an issue. Enter remote software updates, an increasingly common strategy for mobility tech to integrate continuously improving software into vehicles that have already been set on the road.
Enterprise software company UrsaLeo recently announced an expansion into the Southeast Michigan advanced manufacturing space with an Ann Arbor office opening. The company plans to work with manufacturers to create 3D photorealistic models of factory floors, equipment and product models to create remote training, operations, and product demo options for companies adding virtual modeling to their operations.
TusStar is an affiliated network of tech startup incubators and early stage venture accelerators located in over 130 cities around the world. It is led by professors at Tsinghua University in China, a major research university in Beijing, and there is a TusStar Incubator in emerging tech hub Ann Arbor, where a number of academic faculty at the University of Michigan start new companies to make use of inventions found during their research careers. Frank Ni is the head of TusStar Ann Arbor, founded as the premier TusStar location in the U.S. in late 2017 on the north side of Ann Arbor which is famous for its engineering, science research, robotics and autonomous vehicle research campuses. “Innovation can go beyond borders,” Ni tells Cronicle of the philosophy of starting an international incubator in Southeast Michigan.
Research labs have been shut down. Small businesses are searching for funding. But it’s not all bad news in the emerging tech hubs of the Midwest. Especially in hard-hit Michigan, the structure is in place to allow some startups to do quite well during challenging times. We went in to a few interviews of Midwest tech companies and startup coaches thinking they would help us pay forward resources to startup founders to get through these hard times. In addition to resources, they had some good news.
Manufacturers across the Midwest are rushing at historic speeds to create protective gear, ventilator components, and other hospital gear for front-line healthcare workers saving lives in the coronavirus outbreak, which in Michigan is now increasing in confirmed cases by up to 1,500 cases per day. Susan Carlock is a former ER nurse, so when her stamping and component manufacturing company Mursix Corporation in Yorktown, Indiana, heard about the urgent need for PPE, ventilators, and other medical supplies at Michigan hospitals, she sprang into action. Carlock is now VP of Business Development at Mursix, and like many others around the Great Lakes manufacturing belt, she knows the importance of moving quickly to retool a production line normally used to produce parts for the automotive industry to creating face shields, ventilator parts, and hospital bed components. It can’t happen overnight, especially at a time when smaller manufacturers are fighting against urgent conditions and a shortage of materials being scooped up by larger companies. Mursix began speaking with Beaumont Health System in Detroit, and soon they had arrangements to create components for a number of hospital supplies so desperately needed in the fight against COVID-19.
“It’s a very natural feeling, it doesn’t feel as if a robot is driving.” Noah is an engineer with May Mobility. He’s driving us along with May CEO Ed Olson around downtown Ann Arbor. Pedestrians cut into crosswalks against the light and better judgment, a hallmark of the local student pedestrian-friendly culture. And this autonomous shuttle is not only not hitting them–it’s treating them with a lot more deference and a natural-feeling safe distance, than you might get from a lot of human drivers.
There was one moment that convinced us Ann Arbor was going to make it through the birth canal as a growing tech hub, and that was when Ford decided to locate a new agile software consultancy, FordLabs, in Ann Arbor, to recruit University of Michigan software development talent to help make the 100-year-old automaker more agile and lean. Where Ann Arbor’s arts and tech culture meet the automotive giants of Detroit, FordLabs sits at the crossroads, not just of shifting best practices but of time. John Handy, Office Director of FordLabs who welcomed us in with several other key players in the organization for a tour, told us this is really nothing new. People forget, ourselves included, that lean startup culture was in part born here in Detroit, in lean manufacturing.