URC Universities Lead the Nation in Developing Talent for Mobility Industry


Michigan’s three major research universities lead the nation in preparing students who will take their talents into the ever-changing mobility industry, according to a new report by Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC).

The URC leads the nation’s top university innovation clusters in preparing the greatest number of graduates for careers in the mobility industry – 14,824 total, more than university clusters in California, Texas and Massachusetts. It also prepares more than 46% of Michigan graduates who hold degrees in high demand by the mobility industry, such as business, computer science and engineering degrees.

“The URC is vital to securing Michigan’s global position in the mobility industry and critical to its future global leadership,” said URC Executive Director Britany Affolter-Caine. “The URC universities provide the talent and research that are keeping Michigan at the forefront of mobility innovation, bringing jobs and sustainable economic growth to our state.”

In addition to filling the talent pipeline, the URC universities have been instrumental in conducting research and transferring innovations to the market in the mobility industry, which is working to tie together connected and automated vehicles, expanded mass transit, innovations in road construction technology and better charging infrastructure, among other changes. In addition to their own work, the universities work closely with mobility centers and businesses, including the Academic Consortium at the American Center for Mobility, a nonprofit smart mobility test center at Willow Run in Ypsilanti.

MSU has transformed its 5,300-acre campus into a live, connected ecosystem to advance smart-vehicle technology and better understand the human element. With a range of urban, suburban, industrial and rural zones, featuring nearly 60 lane miles of roads, MSU’s controlled infrastructure and active campus make it ideal to test emerging technologies for new mobility solutions.

“Mobility-related research and academic offerings are a core focus at Michigan State University and across the URC,” said Satish Udpa, University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interim Director of MSU Mobility. “The work we’re doing has real-life implications for how autonomous vehicles and other new mobility technologies can help residents in Michigan and around the world lead safer, fuller lives.”

U-M established Mcity, a public-private research partnership among industry, government, and academia. Its work includes funding research, working with partners to deploy connected and automated vehicles in the community, and operating the Mcity Test Facility, which opened in 2015 as the world’s first purpose-built proving ground for these vehicles, offering a safe, controlled site to test performance and safety in a “city” set up to simulate urban and suburban driving.

“We need to think big when it comes to mobility and the research the URC universities are performing is helping achieve that goal,” said U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) Director Jim Sayer. “Our unique Mcity Test Facility, along with our research and education efforts, such as UMTRI’s experiential learning opportunities for more than 300 students this past academic year, will help develop the future of the fast-changing mobility industry right here in Michigan.”

At WSU, the Transportation Research Group focuses on using technology and large datasets to manage and improve safety and mobility on roadways. WSU researchers, with funding from state and federal agencies, are developing and implementing new technologies that range from traffic calming strategies to optimizing connected vehicle data and mobility performance measurements.

“Mobility research draws on such a wide spectrum of knowledge, from changing the motor vehicles we create to finding new ways to make communities safer, cleaner and more connected for all,” said WSU Wayne Mobility Initiative Chair Weisong Shi. “Our research in the fast-evolving world of mobility helps bring the work of our URC institutions in front of the companies around the world developing the mobility technology of tomorrow.”

A recent report from MICHauto, “Mobility Industry’s Economic Contribution to Michigan,” highlights the mobility industry’s direct and indirect impacts on jobs and local economies statewide and on the regional economy. The URC plays a significant role in supporting Michigan’s global mobility industry through its preparation of world-class talent, research and development, and transfer of technology to mobility companies.

“Michigan must position itself to capitalize on the economic opportunity of mobility and lead with technology that solves global issues,” said MICHauto Executive Director Glenn Stevens. “We must use the auto industry as a platform for diversification, with mobility leading to an expansion of data science, robotics, artificial intelligence, and automation that positions Michigan for sustained economic growth.”

In the past five years, the URC has conducted more than $542.4 million in mobility-related research and development specific to the future of mobility, including work that involves autonomous vehicles, crosswalk and curb sensors, cybersecurity, consumer experiences and the social changes new mobility technology will bring.

“Continued investment in mobility research and education will help keep Michigan a global leader in the mobility and electrification industry,” said Kathryn Snorrason, Managing Director of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “It’s clear that the URC universities’ expertise and capacity for mobility research and talent development has had an impact on creating good Michigan jobs that support our local communities and align with our vision to build a stronger state economy through safer, more equitable and environmentally conscious transportation.”