Automotive technology's role in reviving Detroit
From mass migration to tech transformation
In 1920, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the US, with a thriving motor industry and a bright-looking future ahead. Detroit quickly became a leader in architectural development, rivalling that of New York, it defined the sound of a generation through Motown, and became home to a vibrant sports scene. Fast-forward 100 years, Detroit now has fewer residents than it did in 1920, experiencing a 41% drop in population since 2000. The poverty rate is now at 36% and the city was declared bankrupt in 2014.
The economic crash hit Detroit hard, with mass desertion by a quarter of the city’s residents, leaving Detroit in decline and many parts derelict. After witnessing this decline first-hand from traveling to the city regularly, I find it reassuring to see several grassroot movements pushing for regeneration and finally gaining traction. The automotive industry has played a significant role in supporting this revival.
Driving revitalization and development
Since 2016 civic organizations have come together for change in a bid to revive Detroit. They are beginning to achieve progress in a number of areas. Groups such as The Platform, set up in 2016, are interested in developing the city’s commercial and residential properties, undoing the years of urban decay Detroit experienced. The Platform is currently working on over 20 projects across the city.
Major investments have also been made by the long-standing automotive industry. Fiat Chrysler is making $2 billion in upgrades to its plant on Detroit’s east side, creating over 4,000 jobs. A notable revival project is being undertaken on the famous Michigan Central Station, located in Corktown. Once the tallest rail station in the world, this immense piece of architecture was left derelict and in decay for many years. It became a symbol of the abandonment the city experienced during the recession. Ford Motor Company purchased the station in 2018 and plans to build an innovation hub to test mobility solutions at a cost of approximately $740 million. This largescale transformation project will create 5,000 jobs.
Ford, along with General Motors and Wayne State University, was also involved in the development of TechTown – an urban research and technology business park in Detroit. TechTown helps tech start-ups launch and grow through providing office space and networking opportunities.
Verizon in conjunction with the University of Michigan has launched its 5G Ultra-Wideband network and is now live at the Mcity test facility, where they’re using various 5G solutions designed to improve pedestrian and auto safety. That includes 5G-connected cameras installed at intersections inside the Mcity test track to help identify traffic and pedestrian patterns to prevent collisions.
Many automotive software companies have been drawn to set up offices in Detroit, availing of the cheap rents and close proximity to automotive giants (General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen Group of America etc.). According to Detroit Mobility Lab, the city is poised to become the epicentre for mobility in the US. The Michigan Mobility Institute, a Detroit Mobility Lab initiative, will focus on educating professionals and tradespeople within AI, robotics and cybersecurity which will be vital to continuing Detroit’s relevance as a global centre for future mobility. Development and investment are on the up!
Cubic Telecom opens office in Detroit
As one of the largest automotive platform providers in the world, we at Cubic needed feet on the ground in Motor City to service some of our largest customers, including the Volkswagen Group of America, Panasonic Automotive, Verizon and projects with multiple automotive OEM mobility divisions across the city.
From visiting Detroit on business over the past five years I am beginning to notice visible signs of regeneration through improvements to facilities and infrastructure. With renewed confidence and a growing pool of talent flocking to the city, Cubic chose to invest in setting up a Detroit-based team to service our automotive customers’ needs.
We have hired talented software developers and service delivery personnel to work out of our new office located in Royal Oak. Our team of five (and growing!) is looking forward to improving our responsiveness to automotive customer needs and seeing Motor City thrive once again first-hand.
Barry Dignam | VP Sales North America | Sales
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