Detroit Rides The NEW Technology Highway

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DETROITLess
than three miles from Governor Rick Snyder’s Ann Arbor office, he can
see Michigan’s pursuit of technological mastery. A 23-acre mock city
will soon put driverless cars through the paces of urban hazards,
complete with darting robot pedestrians and real snow.

Carved
into the University of Michigan campus and near the technology labs of
the big automakers, the test course called M City is designed to compete
with Silicon Valley’s drive for innovation. As Google Inc. works to
market an electric, self-driving car, Snyder said the marriage of
computer science and automotive metal-bending means higher-paying jobs
for his state, which weathered the 18-month recession and the
bankruptcies of General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and the city of
Detroit.

“Our biggest constraint compared to Silicon Valley is
we’re crummy at marketing,” Snyder said in an interview at his Ann
Arbor office. “Much of perception is Google and their car driving around
Silicon Valley. We have exponentially more research going on within a
few miles of here.

‘‘If you want to be cutting edge in technology in our country, the auto is probably the best place to go.’’
Technology
is becoming a bigger part of the automotive industry, which accounts
directly or indirectly for almost 20 percent of jobs in Michigan,
according to a 2014 study by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann
Arbor. More than 32,000 in metro Detroit work in computer-systems
design, much of it tied to the automotive industry, according to the
Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Fifteen percent of
patents filed by GM from 2007 through 2012 were for software, according
to Brookings. Among Mountain View, California-based Google’s patents
during the same period, 39 percent were for hardware, including
mechanical devices for the driverless car.

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