ACM President and Michigan DOT Director Steudle Keynote Kicks off SAE ADAS Event

Michigan’s Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle’s keynote address opens SAE’s 2018 “From ADAS to Automated Driving” event in Detroit.


Michigan’s Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle’s keynote address kicked off SAE’s 2018 “From ADAS to Automated Driving” event in Detroit on October 9. Now in its second year, and running through October 11 at Cobo Hall, the SAE ADAS event brings together top industry thought leaders with engineers, systems developers, and business managers for highly technical ideas sharing on the technologies and progress from Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) to fully autonomous vehicles.

Steudle (left) also serves as the President and CEO of the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti, MI — which due to just-updated autonomous-vehicle regulatory guidelines issued by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) was stripped of its designation as an official autonomous-vehicle proving grounds — and was on hand at the SAE symposium to elaborate on the tools available for autonomous research in Michigan. Steudle gave a compelling analogy in his keynote, relating automated vehicles to laptop computers, which become far more powerful and effective tools when properly connected to a smart infrastructure.

Automotive Engineering queried Steudle about the collaboration between agencies and manufacturers, where SAE fits in, and the recent designation news involving the ACM.

Automotive Engineering: What brought you to this year’s SAE ADAS event?

Kirk Steudle: The state of Michigan has been in involved with the automotive history for 100 years and it makes perfect sense that we would be engaged in automated driving systems. What I'm talking about today is our vision. Why is the Department of Transportation interested? Why aren't we just filling potholes, putting out orange barrels and just fixing the roads? That's the biggest chunk of what we do, but we have to look towards the future and see that the movement of people and goods is what transportation is about.

AE: How is working with SAE a benefit for the state and for your programs?

Steudle: We've had a long-term connection with the auto industry, and I've been in and around SAE for long time in my own career, and we really view SAE as a great partner. Right now, there is a vehicle that drives on tires that meets an asphalt or concrete surface. We go from the tire down, and SAE from the tire up.

AE: What message are you hoping to deliver to the SAE ADAS event attendees?

Steudle: We want them to know the larger context of what is available around them, to support and enable what they're doing to move forward. If they're not from Michigan, then we want to tell them, ‘Here's why you should be.’ At the end of the day, 75% of all North American auto R&D is done in Michigan. That's 376 companies that are right here in Michigan. If you're not here, you need to be here.

AE: The ACM and nine other sites were stripped of their designations as automated vehicle proving grounds last week by the U.S. DOT’s updated self-driving vehicle guidelines. Do you think that will affect Michigan’s role and the ACM?

Steudle: While that designation was very helpful and we fought for that, we are also not scared of that because our capabilities are unmatched anywhere in the country. We'll put ACM against any test facility in the country or, frankly, in the world. There's no other facility that has a 700-foot curved tunnel, and one that looks directly into the sun. The interchanges that are built there have edge-case scenarios for geometrics that people would see on the road.

While we're disappointed, we also view it as, ‘Look, we'll go toe to toe with anybody in the country. We think we have the best facility, the best resources, the best partners around, and we can do all kinds of testing right there.’