The American Center for Mobility, which expects to begin testing automated vehicles in December on the World War II site of the Arsenal of Democracy, announced Monday a partnership with 15 Michigan universities and community colleges to foster public education and create new opportunities for workers who could be displaced by robot cars.
"Technology is not going to wipe out every job immediately, but it is going to have a real impact," said John Maddox, CEO of the ACM, under construction on and around the foundation of the General Motors Willow Run Transmission Plant, which closed in 2010. "There is a need for the retraining of workers… truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers."
The not-for-profit ACM is one of 10 proving ground pilot sites established by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this year to encourage testing and information sharing around automated vehicle technologies. It is the only purpose-built, full-scale facility. Others are existing facilities like the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
The ACM has three missions: automated and connected vehicle testing and validation; development of voluntary industry standards, and education. Maddox said he sees the consortium as an incubator to address the industry-specific needs.
Participating schools will work together to identify workforce courses and training programs as well as recruitment opportunities, internships, co-op, work study programs and for-credit classes for Academic Consortium students.
"Strong pipelines of technical talent are crucial," said Kristen Tabar, vice president of the Technical Strategy Planning Office at Toyota Motor North American Research & Development. "Investing in exciting and highly applicable experiences for young people will pay dividends for America's workforce now and in the future."
The schools are Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Kettering University, Lawrence Technological University, Macomb Community College, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Oakland University, University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan, University of Michigan Dearborn, Washtenaw Community College, Wayne County Community College, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.
The ACM may reach out to other schools over time. Several already have asked to be part of the center. "Any solution has to be on a national scale and has to be a national imperative," Maddox said.
The partnership allows schools to pursue their own future mobility efforts. Washtenaw and Macomb community colleges, anticipating the coming mobility transformation revolution, already offer courses that attract recruiters from major suppliers.
"Preparing future technicians to work on these vehicles, the instrumenting of many, many sensors, instrumenting, debugging are all critical needs," said Kay Stepper, Bosch North America vice president of Driver Assistance Systems and Automated Driving Chassis Systems Control.
Maddox said one future career could mirror air traffic control. "Call it an automated vehicle ground traffic controller, someone who monitors a fleet of vehicles for one company or one organization that are working in one geographic area," he said.
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