Mobility startups join TechLab incubator to pilot vehicle innovations

October 5, 2017
Connected and autonomous vehicle at M city test facility

By Jane Sugiyama

On the heels of new federal guidance for industry and state governments on automated driving systems, emerging mobility companies are coming to the University of Michigan to pilot their connected and automated vehicle technologies.

Five companies from across the country will test and develop mobility solutions with U-M students as part of the university technology incubator — TechLab at Mcity.

TechLab is managed by U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship, in partnership with Mcity, a public-private partnership led by U-M to accelerate advanced mobility vehicles and technologies.

Unlike traditional incubators, TechLab aims to foster collaboration between startups, university researchers and student innovators by emphasizing student learning.

“I like to refer to this model of collaboration as the ‘startup-in-residence’ model,” said Jonathan Fay, the Dixon and Carol Doll Executive Director of CFE. “We are leveraging the world-class research and facilities at U-M to attract leading startups. Together we are developing the technical leaders of tomorrow.”

As an experiential learning incubator, TechLab matches these early-stage transportation technology companies with students interested in applying classroom learning to practical technology development.

Engineering students in the program work on projects tailored to the needs of each participating company. The students perform testing and simulation at the Mcity Test Facility, a one-of-a-kind mobility research and urban test facility on U-M’s North Campus.

The companies in the fall 2017 cohort are:

  • CARMERA, of New York and Seattle; Provides real-time 3-D maps and navigation-critical data for autonomous vehicles.
  • PolySync, of Portland, Ore.; Builds a framework for building, testing and deploying safe driverless vehicle applications quickly.
  • RightHook,of San Jose, Calif.; Exposes self-driving cars to the harshest conditions through simulation testing.
  • Tome, of Detroit; Operates in the “internet of things” technology space. As part of TechLab, Tome will focus on safe bicycle-to-vehicle communication.
  • Zendrive, of San Francisco; Uses smartphone sensors to identify driving behaviors and provide insights and coaching to help you drive more safely.

“These startups are really pushing the pace of innovation, and we want to expose our students to that environment as much as we can,” said Greg McGuire, TechLab instructor and Mcity lab director. “Our students will take these experiences with them as they move forward in creating their own mobility solutions and start their own companies.”

Since the launch of TechLab in January 2016, several of the students have been offered internships with the companies, as well as jobs after graduation.