Cars, connections and composites lead Michigan's future

Mar 17, 2017

The automotive industry has been and remains one of the main anchors of business in Michigan.  WKAR's Jim Peck takes a look at what the future may hold.

The future of the auto industry is exciting, new-fangled and tethered to Michigan, according to engineers working on the next big things.

Hayder Radha is working on self-driving cars. He’s an MSU engineer and director of the Connected Autonomous Network Vehicles for Active Safety, better known as CANVAS.

“People will be able to hop into their cars and say, ‘Take me from wherever I am to Chicago.’” He says our cars will basically be like a rolling living room, “It’s just like you’re sitting in your house, but mobile.”

Our vehicles will also be connected to the Internet, according the Radha, so we’ll be able to work, or play, as the miles roll away.

Mileage, as always, is a big concern. Larry Drzal leads a team trying to figure out a way to make composite materials part of the design and structural mix. His work at Michigan State and with IACMI, the Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation is about making our cars lighter. He says the internal combustion engine isn’t going away any time soon, but that it’s gotten about as efficient as it will ever get. Making cars significantly lighter is the best way he sees of getting more miles per gallon.

Hayder Radha and Larry Drzal both lead these efforts of development and innovation right here in Michigan. Drzal points to history of this industry, born in our state, and the future that’s coming to life here, signals a healthy outlook.

“In a global economy we want to make sure the United States can provide the manufacturing jobs we need for a solid economy. I’m one of those people who believes if we don’t do manufacturing here, we’re not going to be a very valuable or robust economy,” He says working with the car makers on projects like this has tremendous importance. “Certainly working with the auto companies is great and this is great for Michigan. If you step back a little bit, this is great for the country.”