PlanetM launches two-part grant program to help support mobility startups in Michigan


The state of Michigan’s mobility-focused brand and business development program PlanetM has unveiled a new initiative that offers mobility startups access to more than US$1m in grant funding at the 2018 ITS America Annual Meeting being held in Detroit this week.

One of the first of its kind, PlanetM’s new two-part program includes a Pilot Grant and a Testing Grant, with the funding designed to enable mobility startups to deploy and test their technologies on Michigan’s roadways, within closed and real-world environments, with the goal of making transportation easier, safer and more affordable for residents. The latest funding announcement builds on the momentum of other recent pilot grant programs, including the Detroit Mobility Innovation Initiative and the US$8m Michigan Mobility Challenge, an initiative announced last week by Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, and state officials to address core mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans across the state.

Other parties involved in the initiative are: the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT); Derq, a Dubai- and Detroit-based traffic safety technology startup; and Mcity, a connected and automated vehicle (CAV) urban testing facility on the campus of the University of Michigan. Mcity is the first advanced testing facility partner on the Testing Grant program, which will provide startups with a discounted fee for trials at the site. Derq, which develops software using patented artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and prevent car crashes, is the first company to take part in the PlanetM Pilot Grant program. As part of the pilot, Derq is launching two advanced software applications for CAVs and road infrastructure, in downtown Detroit at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street. These AI-based V2X applications will focus on predicting vehicle and pedestrian-related risks around intersections, and proactively alerting fleets and vehicles equipped with Derq’s technology.

“The startup technology that is being tested and deployed here in Michigan will lead to real, and meaningful improvements in the quality of life and access to transportation solutions throughout the state,” said Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM. “We’re constantly working to address the needs and challenges expressed by those actively engaged in the mobility community, and we are taking it to the next level via testing and deployment.”

Dr Georges Aoude, CEO and co-founder of Derq, commented, “We are very excited to bring our AI and V2X software capabilities to Detroit. Coming from Dubai, we’re thankful to have great partners like PlanetM and MDOT in both this pilot project, and in helping us to build our business in the USA. We’re proud to consider Michigan as our USA headquarters, and to be part of Michigan’s evolution as the mobility state.”

Greg McGuire, lab director at Mcity, noted, “The cost to test can be a deterrent for many startups. We’re proud to work with PlanetM and MDOT to take action and provide funding to reduce these costs. This will allow startups to focus their resources on enhancing and demonstrating their technologies, and simultaneously works to deepen companies’ ties to Michigan and our mobility ecosystem.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).