SAA explores ‘Are consumers ready for the future of mobility?’

Q&A session with Phil Roos, CEO Great Lakes GrowthWorks as moderator (Jerome Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

LIVONIA, Mich. — On Tuesday morning, the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA) held an event in cooperation with Great Lakes GrowthWorks at the Detroit Marriott Livonia. Automotive experts answered the question, “Are consumers ready for the future of mobility?”

Elaine Tait, Principal, Great Lakes GrowthWorks, says progress in the industry, advancements in mobility are happening today.  “How can we help to push consumers ahead?  Are we ready?  The signals of success is underway.  Uber has more users than before.  Tesla’s quarterly sales continue to rise.  U.S. electric scooters are popular.  What will nudge us in the future?  Partnerships, urban planning, smart cities and role of data are some examples.  Vision Zero advances readiness and drives us into the future.”

“There are many new innovating ideas coming to the Vision of Smart City such as livability, close to work and sustainability,” says Carla Bailo, Center for Automotive Research.  Smart City technology is a lot of data that comes from sensors along with automation.  Examples are connected vehicle systems, intelligent transportation systems and automated vehicle systems.  They all come together and all of these are needed to have smart mobility.

“We have to use our roadways more efficiently.  How ‘smart’ is a city built for private cars?  Parking is the lowest values of land use in urban areas.  Traffic and congestion imposes risk to safety, health and well being.  Smart cities are reducing reliance on personal vehicles.  We have to develop public transit, use Lyft and Uber, scooters and walk more.  There are a lot of different options to get around.  Ridesharing, carpooling, car sharing, car rental and mass transit are some examples,” added Bailo.

“Smart technologies are driven by citizens.  Approaches that work in corporate and industrial solutions may not work in city solutions.  The community is the customer and we work for them.  Unless we change, just applying new technology, it will not work.  People need to be part of the solution.”

Paul Eichenberg of Paul Eichenberg Strategic Consulting talked about how data and software will change the automotive industry.

“The flood of data in autonomous vehicles is three main sensors; the camera, radar and LiDAR.  These are used to identify location in a lane in traffic throughout the terrain.  The sensor senses route planning, construction, parking and traffic.  Data is collecting road landmarks through camera and radar equipped in the vehicles.  The LiDAR is a route aid for your autonomous driving system,” says Eichenberg.

Tesla has so much data on its vehicles that it knows your driving system.  How much you brake, where you drive, etc.  You can get a 30 percent discount on your insurance due to this data.  The data collected from consumers will have tremendous value to researchers and suppliers of the sensors that collect data.  Facial/biometric recognition allows to recognize changes in individual emotional state such as are you drunk, under the influence, stressed, distracted or drowsy.

“The difference between good tread life versus bad tread life is 150 feet in stopping distance.  That is a tremendous amount of information which creates a safer vehicle,” added Eichenberg.

Valerie Sathe Brugeman, Daimler, discussed Vision Zero which focuses on human mistakes should not have fatal consequences.  It also focuses on roads and users on roads and behavior of people on the roads.  She says urban planning should be for people not vehicles by reducing speed limits in urban areas and enforcing them.  “Technology makes mobility services safer.  There are all sorts of efforts for Vision Zero.  It takes a budget and some people don’t want to drive slower in urban areas, they want to drive freely.  So are consumers ready for this?”

Greg McGuire, Associate Director Mcity, says he started with a start-up company called Zipcar.  “Transportation has been my passion for sure.  University of Michigan has a University of Transportation Institute and it wants to maintain that leadership in this area.  Electrification ownership models connectivity.  Mcity was created to bring a partnership with academics, industry and government to advance transportation safety. 

There are three different ways to achieve this:  bring money in for research, run labs in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and educational and outreach in our government.  We are trying to resolve all facets of the mobility ecosystem by law, public policy, urban planning and human factors.  Research represents an investment of more than $30 million.”

Robert Goodspeed, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan’s Taubman College, says there is a shift in urban transportation due to Uber and Lyft.  “Washtenaw County uses several modes of transportation:  63 percent mass transit, 38 percent cars, 18 percent bicycles and 18 percent walkability.  Why riders use ridesharing:  less walking, weather, frequency of speed of route.  Vibrant cities must move people efficiently.  This is why we are anti-car,” says Goodspeed. 

There was a Q&A moderated by Phil Roos, CEO of Great Lakes GrowthWorks. 

The first question was “Who owns the data?” Eichenberg responded “Big brother is watching, Tesla is watching.  They have eight camera systems collecting data on the app of Tesla.  Tesla is gonna own that data.”   Bailo said there is $2.1 billion worth of data.  “It tells you how you are behaving in your vehicle, your shopping habits and what you are listening to.  People can capitalize on that.”

What do you think about autonomous vehicle adoption?  Bailo said technology has to be improved and smarter.  Eichenberg responded that Tesla will be the leader in the market.  “I forecast two to three million vehicles at the end of the decade.”

Asking the panel, Why do you do this? (regarding what you do)  Sathe Brugeman says she loves cities.  “I love to walk to work.”  McGuire  answered, “as an engineer, I like building things and trying to make things more efficient.”  Goodspeed says “it sparked an interest and put me on a path in urban planning.”

Mobility has changed since 20 years ago.  What is mobility?  How do you define mobility?  Sathe Brugeman says it is a movement of people and goods.  McGuire says “it’s freedom of movement.”  

What can we do to get that (mobility) done?  Goodspeed responded “an investment in light rail system such as in Salt Lake City.  We could see projects like this to model this process.  So we focus on land use and future of mobility.”  Sathe Brugeman says “They closed 14th street in New York City for car traffic.  That is major.  San Francisco closed Market Street–a major thoroughfare to traffic.”

Who are the sources of influence and educating the public to understand the smart cities?  Bailo says that is a very holistic question.  “By creating chief operating officers and holding public forums and holding community meetings at churches, PTA’s and community recreation centers.  Cities have a big role to play in that.”

David Stout, SAA, gave the introduction and closing remarks. 

The next SAA event will be held at the Toyota Research and Development Headquarters in Saline, Michigan on March 23. For more information or to register, visit

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