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Voice of Miller Canfield: The Auto Show Matters More than Ever
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The North American International Auto Show is welcoming thousands of journalists and industry executives to town next week, and Jan. 14-22, some 800,000 car enthusiasts will flock to Cobo Center to get a sneak peek at what’s new and exciting in the industry.

It’s one of the most important annual events in the automotive industry. We’re expecting more than 40 reveals from car makers from around the world. The prestige, the flashy reveals and the futuristic concept cars make NAIAS the place to connect … and to impress.

The show is one of my favorite events of the year, and this year especially I’m looking forward to it. Because this year, it’s also a place to celebrate.

It was recently reported that 2016 U.S. auto sales rose for the seventh straight year, surpassing economists’ forecasts, which is cause for celebration in a city and in an industry that only a few short years ago had faced tough challenges. During the city’s bankruptcy and the worst times for the auto industry, the event faced the challenge of walking the fine line between the usual glamor of the auto show, and the economic reality that many of its workers, and residents of the Detroit region as a whole, were experiencing.

But in a post-bankruptcy city that is definitely enjoying a comeback, in an industry that is not only surviving but is innovating like never before, a little bit of showiness, a little bit of sparkle, feels good right now. It’s OK to shine!

One of the things we’re most looking forward to is the all-new, 120,000-square-foot AutoMobili-D dynamic display that will be open in Cobo’s atrium this week, focusing on autonomous and connected car technology, e-mobility, mobility services and urban mobility. According to NAIAS, those in attendance will have the opportunity to experience firsthand advanced driver assist and autonomous vehicle functionality on a dedicated test track. It will showcase innovation, and approximately 120 companies will be represented. The display is the result of a partnership between NAIAS and Techstars Mobility, a program that invests in startup companies that build mobility technology.

As a testament to how much AV technology means to this region and the auto industry, Techstars has worked with startups from around the world, and in 2016 alone, received applications from nearly 500 companies from 52 countries, all seeking to relocate their businesses to Detroit.

The new display couldn’t come at a better time, as Michigan is moving forward with the American Center for Mobility autonomous vehicle testing facility on more than 335 acres in Ypsilanti Township. The center will be designed for research, education, testing, standards-convening, product development, validation and self-certification, and will make the region a global leader in autonomous and connected vehicles.

At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued guidance on how manufacturers, suppliers, tech companies, aftermarket upfitters and ride-sharing companies will test, certify and register their technology, which is expected to turn transportation on its head.

For all visiting the Auto Show, welcome! We’re looking forward to seeing you there, and especially looking forward to cheering on the industry and its bright future.

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