U-M Center for Entrepreneurship, Mcity collaborate to spur driverless innovation

February 25, 2016
Tech lab Mcity logo

The University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with the U-M Mobility Transformation Center is launching the pilot of TechLab at Mcity, a new opportunity for collaboration among university research, advanced transportation startups and student innovators.

TechLab is designed to create unique educational opportunities and accelerate the success of participating companies. The program leverages nationally recognized U-M engineering talent and the cutting-edge facilities of MTC’s Mcity to drive connected and driverless innovation closer to market.

It replicates many of the attributes of startup incubators with a heavy emphasis on student intern learning experiences—allowing students to witness first-hand how a lab innovation becomes a company, which in turn equips them with the knowledge and skills of how product development takes place in the real world.

“By creating a structure that allows startup companies from around the globe to access top-flight talent and resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them, we believe we have hit upon a model that will create a winning opportunity for all involved,” said Thomas Frank, executive director of the U-M College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Unleashing the passion of students and the drive of new companies—think of the opportunities,” said Volker Sick, U-M associate vice president for research, natural sciences and engineering. “We are uniquely positioned to launch this incubator experience around new mobility ideas by leveraging the educational strengths and expertise of the CFE and MTC.”

TechLab’s pilot program launches with Zendrive, a fast-growing Bay Area startup that recently announced $13.5 million in Series A funding. Zendrive’s technology taps mobile sensors to measure driver safety through actions like acceleration, braking, swerving and phone use, among many others.

Founded by Google and Facebook veterans, Zendrive uses powerful artificial intelligence algorithms and hundreds of billions of data points to analyze sensor data and return actionable insights for fleets and drivers. Because it’s software-based, managing and scaling within any number of vehicles is flexible, simple and affordable.

“U-M’s team, paired with its unrivaled connected-car and autonomous-vehicle testing ground at Mcity, is the ideal environment for us to shape the next generation of safety technologies,” said Zendrive CEO Jonathan Matus. “Collaborating with U-M allows us to explore what is possible in the future of transportation, as well as apply learnings to today’s road safety opportunities, including driving apps, on-demand services and commercial fleets.”

About the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship 

The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), part of the College of Engineering at The University of Michigan, provides academic programs, commercialization training and broad support resources for students, faculty and community members. CFE co-manages the TechArb student startup incubator and provides overall support to Michigan’s economic development efforts. Its teaching philosophy focuses on experiential learning with an emphasis on the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. It provides resources such as structured venture incubation programs, global access to both internal and external advisors, mentorship, talent and funding. CFE’s mission is to ensure support for entrepreneurs from discovery through venture creation, and to enhance and expand an appreciation for entrepreneurial thinking for its students. For more information, please visit www.cfe.umich.edu.

About the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center and Mcity

Mcity is the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless transportation. Mcity is operated by the U-M Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), a public-private partnership among industry, government and academia. The center was established to lay the foundation for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated mobility that will revolutionize the movement of people and goods worldwide. A key MTC goal is to put a shared network of connected and automated (including driverless) vehicles on the road in Ann Arbor, Michigan by 2021. For more information, please visit http://www.mtc.umich.edu/.

About Zendrive

Zendrive is a company dedicated to making roads safer through data and analytics. It represents the next wave of safety innovation as the world rapidly moves toward the future of transportation that includes on- demand and autonomous vehicles. Through its product suite, Zendrive leverages mobile sensor data to provide actionable insights that improve safety for passengers and drivers. Launched in 2013 and based in San Francisco, Zendrive has analyzed hundreds of billions of data points and raised $15M in funding from investors including Sherpa Capital, First Round Capital, BMW i Ventures, Nyca Partners, Thomvest Ventures, and Fontinalis Partners (Bill Ford). To learn more, visit Zendrive.com or find us on Twitter at @Zendrive.