Roundup: Riser’s New Role, STEM Summit, U-M AV News, and More

Let’s catch up on Michigan’s latest innovation news:

—[Clarification, 2/11/19, 9:31 p.m.; see below.] Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI 12) announced that the University of Michigan will receive a $2.5 million grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers program to continue funding for the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation. The center is a regional consortium that also includes Washtenaw Community College, Purdue University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Akron, and Central State University. It seeks to advance research in transportation safety and congestion management by leveraging connected vehicles, connected infrastructure, and autonomous vehicles.

The automated transportation center tests emerging technologies and concepts at the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment, a “living laboratory” that incorporates urban streets and highways, thousands of connected vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and smart phones; and Mcity, a campus proving ground that includes a replica town for vehicle testing and evaluation.

“As researchers continue to seek advancements in driverless technology, there are a number of issues surrounding technology development, policy and planning, and system design and operations that require answers and resolution,” said Henry Liu, the center’s director, in a statement.

On a related note: Dingell’s husband John, who was instrumental in securing federal support for the auto industry during the Great Recession, passed away last week at age 92. He spent 59 years representing Michigan in Congress before retiring in 2015 and is perhaps most famous for forcefully advocating for landmark legislation, including the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Maybe counterintuitively for a nonagenarian, he was also a wry, feisty presence on Twitter right up to the end. For more information on funeral services, which are open to the public, click here.

—We’ll have a story with more details soon, but TechTown Detroit made a major announcement today: Paul Riser Jr. is stepping down from his position leading technology-based entrepreneurship at the Wayne State University-affiliated incubator to take on a new role as the inaugural director of Detroit Urban Solutions, an innovation consortium aiming to grow Detroit’s technology ecosystem and develop tech-based solutions to the challenges Detroit and other urban areas face. [Clarification: Even though Riser is leaving his current position at TechTown, he will remain an employee of the organization.]

Detroit Urban Solutions—a collaboration between Wayne State, TechTown, NextEnergy, and other organizations—says it will focus on mobility, digital health, and civic and smart-city technologies. Last May, the consortium spent $6.6 million to purchase the former NextEnergy Center across the street from TechTown, which has now been renamed the Wayne State Industry Innovation Center. The building with office, laboratory, event, and demonstration space will allow faculty, researchers, and students to co-locate with industry to work on a variety of tech projects.

—In other U-M and autonomous-vehicle news: The university is offering an online “teach-out” via Coursera through the end of February. The roughly two-hour course is free and open to anyone in the world. The material will cover basic questions about self-driving technologies, including what an AV is, legal questions surrounding driverless cars, how to prepare for future mobility, how AVs are being tested, accessibility and equity issues, and how to build trust in these brand-new innovations. Contributing faculty specialize in relevant topics, including engineering, public policy, law, political science, sociology, and information technology.

—The Southeast Michigan STEM Alliance and the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan for will host a STEM Summit March 8 and 9 at Oakland University. The event will include keynote speakers and panels, and it will address the region’s evolving STEM talent and educational needs. The summit will also focus on networking, connecting skill development to career pathways, collaboration between educators and industry, and how to expand STEM learning opportunities, organizers said in a press release. To register to attend, click here.

—More STEM action can be found at Wayne State University’s third annual STEM Day, which is expected to draw nearly 2,500 middle-school students to participate in more than 80 interactive sessions across campus. The free event, scheduled for March 12, is open to kids attending school in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and their teachers, as well as home-schooled students.

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