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Michigan Awards Seed Money for Transportation Innovation

The state of Michigan awarded $285,000 to four companies as part of its Michigan Mobility Funding Platform, which aims to grow private-sector transportation innovation around electrification, safety and other areas.

The state of Michigan is hoping new traffic management and analysis technology deployed at several intersections in Ann Arbor will make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The initiative is part of a project in Michigan to fund the testing and deployment of transportation technology focusing on safety, sustainability, parking and other areas in support of the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure ecosystem. Known as the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform, the project provides competitive grant funding for those companies hoping to grow their technology in Michigan.

“Over time, we also hope the platform will evolve to enable Michigan-based organizations — public and private — to launch their own mobility and electrification funding initiatives,” said Charlie Tyson, technology activation manager at Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Ann Arbor project is being led by Bluecity, which was awarded $100,000 by Michigan. The company will work in partnership with the University of Michigan, Velodyne Lidar and others to place its real-time traffic monitoring technology at five intersections in Ann Arbor. Sensors and AI technology are used to better understand near misses, red light running, speeding and other traffic activities occurring in intersections to help traffic planners take steps to make these areas safer for vulnerable road users.

“Bluecity’s AI perception software is used to detect, classify and track road users like cars, trucks, buses, cyclists and pedestrians,” explained Philip Lassner, chief revenue officer for Bluecity, adding the technology “can connect to traffic light controllers for smart traffic actuation and pedestrian and cyclist prioritization.”

The technology relies on lidar sensors and edge processors attached to streetlights. The sensors emit vast numbers of light pulses per second to create a three-dimensional representation of the intersection.

"Our powerful data visualization platform, Bluecity iQ, transforms raw traffic data into valuable traffic analytics like count and speed per road user and trajectories, as well as safety and conflict analytics,” said Lassner.

Other companies awarded grants as part of the Mobility Funding Platform include GEKOT, (Great Engineering Kids of Tomorrow,) which installs collision avoidance and theft prevention software onto e-scooters at Oakland University. The company was awarded $70,000.

Mouvit will deploy its autonomous sidewalk bots in communities around Dearborn. The company, which was awarded $100,000, will partner with Lawrence Technological University, The Henry Ford Museum, Stantec and others. The technology is designed to integrate easily with business operations to move goods, serve food and beverage vending, and other tasks.

Nimbus is creating small three-wheeled electric vehicles, which cost only about $10,000, have a range of about 100 miles and can charge quickly and easily overnight on a standard wall outlet. As part of the Mobility Funding Platform program, the company was awarded $15,000, to help the company further develop the vehicle at the proving grounds of Kettering University’s GM Mobility Research Center.

“We designed the Nimbus One to work well in the rain, light snow and road surfaces with reduced traction as long as the vehicle is driven carefully and turns are not taken aggressively,” said Ed Rivera, a spokesman for Nimbus.

The Michigan Mobility Funding Platform was launched in 2021, with the goal of providing grants to mobility and electrification companies looking to deploy their technology in Michigan, said Tyson.

“The long-term goal of the program is to support projects from the testing and development phase to become actionable, deployable technology solutions that impact the availability and readiness of our state’s EV infrastructure ecosystem,” he added.

Also playing a role in the effort are the state’s publicly funded universities, which provide research through resources such as the University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, said Tyson.

“Advances in the way we approach our initiatives within the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification would not be possible without their support and expertise,” he remarked.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.