To make the state a more attractive place for mobility companies, Michigan’s economic development corporation announced on Wednesday that it has issued its fourth round of yearlong mobility pilot grants. The funding will go to a cohort of four startups with ideas about how to improve parking, curb-management and access to electronic-vehicle charging stations.
The grants, which total more than $300,000, are issued by PlanetM, the mobility arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Including funding mobility “testing” grants for autonomous and connected vehicle companies, Michigan has already issued $1.5 million to 20 mobility startups since PlanetM launched the grant program in 2018.
PlanetM is meant to be a “one-stop shop” for companies interested in opening business in Michigan, said Charlie Tyson, PlanetM’s technology activation manager.
“[We want to] help them grow in Michigan as a company, but also to address transportation issues our communities are facing. Although we are an economic development effort, we’re also trying to improve the quality of life,” Tyson told StateScoop.
Among the four companies to receive funding Wednesday, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based e-Mobility Analytics will install a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in the city’s downtown using a $75,000 grant. PlanetM said that project will raise public awareness of solar charging and provide data back to the city.
A Brooklyn-based company called Parkofon will receive $77,000 to test its “student parking on-demand technology.” or SPOT, on the University of Detroit campus. That project is designed for students who currently waste time and fuel searching for parking spots. Using geospatial positioning and Parkpocket, a mobile app that helps users find parking in parking garages, the platform will automatically assign users free parking spots when they arrive on campus.
The other two companies, PikMyKid and Zown, will help communities improve safety and efficiency in high-traffic areas by reducing congestion around curbs that are used to pick up and drop off schoolkids and other passengers. PikMyKid’s platform, which allows school administrators, teachers and parents to coordinate school dismissals and student pick-ups in real time, will be installed in elementary and high schools across Central Michigan with a grant of $60,000.
Zown, a Toronto-based company, has partnered with Ford Field and Bedrock, a Detroit-based commercial real estate firm, to pilot a service that allows property managers to designate in real time where they’d like ride-hailing services to pick up passengers, cutting down on congestion and confusion for people trying to locate their Uber or Lyft rides in busy areas. The idea is similar to airports providing designated taxi and ride-hailing pick-up and drop-off locations, said Zown CEO Saleem Ahmad. In the first phase of the pilot. Zown will identify the most popular pick-up locations.
“We store those locations, and as trip requests come on, we’re able to experiment with different pick-up locations,” Ahmad said. “And at the end of the pilot, for each of these properties, we’re going to know the most optimal pickup location to use for every trip request that comes in.”