CFE, Mcity collaborate to spur transportation innovation


The Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Mobility Transformation Center is launching the pilot of TechLab at Mcity, a new opportunity for collaboration among University of Michigan 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 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 Center for Entrepreneurship, located at the College of Engineering.

“Unleashing the passion of students and the drive of new companies — think of the opportunities,” said Volker Sick, 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 San Francisco 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.”


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