February 9th, 2024

Navigating the Future: A Deep Dive into Mobility and Michigan's Tech Ecosystem

The Tech Council recently set the stage for an insightful discussion on mobility.

Technology Technology Council of West Michigan West Michigan Greater Grand Rapids

Written by Jen Wangler, VP of Technology

The Technology Council of West Michigan recently set the stage for an insightful discussion on mobility, hosting Justine Johnson, Chief Mobility Officer for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Michigan's rich history in transportation mobility solutions took center stage, emphasizing the evolving landscape in the movement of both people and goods.

Defining Mobility

Mobility, as discussed in the forum, is a concept that varies for everyone, and around the world is changing every day. In the context of Michigan's focus, it encompasses the intricate web of transportation, emphasizing not only the historical reliance on auto mobility but also the emerging tech ecosystem, including electric and autonomous vehicles. Some mobility initiatives already under way including wireless charging stations built along a 1-mile-long section of road in Detroit and The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) which plans to build out two million EV’s on Michigan roads by 2030 and provides funding to states to deploy EV charging infrastructure according to Michigan Department of Transportation.

The Michigan Opportunity

Delving into the future, Michigan's My Future Mobility Plan, FLIGHT, and initiatives in Northern Michigan are spotlighting the state's growing tech ecosystem. Despite these advancements, a need for a coordinated transit network is identified in the Growing Michigan Together Council Report, underscoring the historical emphasis on auto mobility over person-centered mobility. Why is this a problem, you might ask? According to a recent study by Mckinsey.com found that Gen Z want options when it comes to mobility. They found that using multiple transportation modes is becoming more popular—from the rise of ride hailing and car sharing to scooter rentals. Young people are seeking communities rich with amenities like transit, walkability, outdoor recreation and more and more prefer non-motorized means of transportation.

Moving Goods: The Tech Ecosystem's Role

A crucial aspect of Michigan's tech ecosystem lies in the movement of goods. During our discussion, Matt Toburen, Founder of NEXUSIQ, highlighted the essential role of emerging technologies like AI and IoT in addressing supply chain challenges. He stressed the importance of deploying mobile tech and AI solutions closest to the problem for effective automation, with a focus on inventory tracking to cut costs and reclaim lost sales. Matt goes on to share recent work, “combining AI, mobile cameras, and operational software, solutions with aim to provide a comprehensive approach to automate inventory tracking, providing a multifaceted answer to a multi-billion-dollar issue across supply chains”.

Social Impact on Urban Infrastructure

Mobility intersects with people's lives in profound ways, serving as a vital thread connecting communities. Justine Johnson went on to emphasize the social impact, particularly in urban areas like Grand Rapids, where population growth is substantial. As mobility becomes more intertwined with social equity and accessibility, investment in transit options becomes an investment in people, addressing economic, age, and physical barriers. Founded by native sons of the Greater Grand Rapids area, Thomas and Bradyn Sikkema, Ride YourWay provides an individualized, timely, and safe means of transportation to and from medical appointments, events, and any other needs you may have. In 2013, Thomas was diagnosed with brain cancer and endured brain surgery, chemotherapy, and countless procedures. This experience motivated and inspired him to make a difference with individuals who endure similar experiences.

Moving Forward

Michigan's deep dive into mobility showcases a future where tech innovations shape transportation, emphasizing the need for coordination, social impact considerations, and sustainable solutions. As the state pioneers the next wave of mobility, it stands at the forefront of creating a connected, efficient, and inclusive transportation ecosystem.

Contact Jen Wangler

Jen wangler 1

Jennifer Wangler

Vice President, Technology | Director, Technology Council of West Michigan

Jennifer provides retention and expansion assistance to Right Place clients in Kent County and site location assistance to national and international IT and tech companies. She also serves as the Director for the Technology Council of West Michigan.

Full Bio