Auto Industry goes beyond mobility as industry preview begins at NAIAS in Detroit

Futuristic visions and ideas about the rapidly changing auto industry filled the halls of Cobo Center on Wednesday during panel discussions at AutoMobili-D as thousands of industry designers and engineers flooded the show floor to evaluate the newest cars and trucks at NAIAS.

Throughout the day, some of the industry’s brightest entrepreneurs and experts offered jaw-dropping examples of technology they are already testing or selling that could reshape the industry in the coming years. Here is just a sample of what was said:

3-D Printing a Car?

Mouse McCoy, Founder and CEO of HackRod, showed a video of a car called ‘La Bandita’ that was designed using virtual reality technology before it was produced using an industrial 3-D printing process. It was then tested under harsh conditions with hundreds of sensors to collect data.

“With artificial intelligence, and machine learning, we have the power of hundreds of engineers at our fingertips,” said McCoy during the Automobilty 4.0 panel. “We are now printing a full-scale car in aluminum. If you can build a car this way, you can build anything this way.”

Self-driving race cars

Not to be outdone, Rod Chong, Deputy CEO, Roborace, predicted that the world of automotive racing will change just as much as the automotive industry over the next decade. Roborace was the first-ever autonomous race car to complete the hill climb at Goodwood Festival of Speed held last summer in England.

“Our goal is to see how we can make racing relevant to where we know cars are going,” Chong said. “I think everyone here knows that 5 or 10 years from now what we see on the streets will be much different. We see ourselves as a way to make racing relevant into the future.”

Cameras or Radar?

The debate between the best method for self-driving cars to see the road – radar or cameras –continued.

“Radar is really good at understating movement. Radar with high-resolution can see objects cameras would not be able to see,” said Ram Machness, vice president of product and customer success for Arbe Robotics. “With imaging radar, with high-resolution radar, you will be able to understand what is stationary, and what is moving.”

Is the word “Mobility” outdated?

“What I think we are seeing is the democratization of technology and knowledge,” said Ted Serbinski, founder and managing director of Techstars Detroit. “We don’t have a set vision of what mobility looks like. It was a good word for a while, but it’s also misleading. To us, the movement of people and goods is so much bigger than that.”

Stop competing with iPhones and Smartphones

Matt Jones, senior vice president of software at Virgin Hyperloop One, said too many automakers are still trying to compete with iPhones and Smartphones instead of finding better ways to integrate technology with them.

“If I say, how do you use an Uber? I can guarantee you that you will look at your device to order the Uber and you will look at it for most of the time that you are in the Uber,” Jones said. “The OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) do not need to compete with that device – they look at how ‘do you embrace it?’”

Attracting Talent to Advanced Automotive Engineering

The advent of the era of mobility ushers in a golden opportunity for the automotive industry and Michigan to break out of its old-industry mould to attract and retain the best engineers, according to several panellists who participated in the Arsenal of Mobility panel discussion.

But even with that opportunity, and progress that the industry has been making in recent years, outdated perceptions remain difficult to overcome.

“We need to help people understand it’s not just about mobility…they also need to know Michigan is a cool place to live,” said Alisyn Malek; COO and Co-Founder at May Mobility. “We need young people to recognize that there is an opportunity to stay here and grow here …and that can grow their networks and understand the opportunity.”

Michigan and the automotive industry are getting better at positioning the auto industry as a cool career option, said Glenn Stevens, Executive Director, MICHauto and vice president, Automotive & Mobility Initiatives.

“The reality is that the vehicle is the most high-tech product on the face of the earth. And now it’s the center of the IOT (Internet of Things),” said Stevens.

Show flooded with Industry Professionals

Meanwhile, the show floor was filled as more than 15000 engineers, designers and auto executives took the opportunity to tour NAIAS before opening to the public so they could closely evaluate the new vehicles revealed this week by their competitors.

They were joined by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine who toured the show floor during the afternoon and met with a number of industry executives to talk about his state’s automotive industry.

Industry Preview will continue on Thursday and Charity Preview, a black-tie gala, will take place Friday before the show opens to the public on Saturday.