Print Friendly and PDF

Innovative Disruption: Embracing Startups, 3-D Printing and Cybersecurity

Key Takeaways:

  1. Embracing disruption requires collaboration and creating mutual benefit between companies.
  2. Connectivity should not just focus on “is it possible,” but rather making the connected experience useful for consumers.
  3. Michigan must cultivate talent to improve cybersecurity among connected and autonomous vehicles.

Much of the technology and business models disrupting the auto industry continues to come from startup companies, according to Mike Morin, portfolio relations strategist for Start Garden.

Morin, along with a panel of automotive and business experts, provided insight into three disruptive forces impacting the mobility industry — 3-D printing, startup companies and cybersecurity, during a session titled “New Forces in the Auto and Mobility World” sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

In order to maintain its global leadership, Michigan’s automotive research and development centers must proactively seek out new technology and business models that will inject value into transportation, Morin said.

Recognizing this important trend, business accelerators such as Grand Rapids-based Seamless are bringing together large enterprises in numerous industries such as health care, automotive and retail to identify and support startups focused on integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into modern conveyances. The goal, according to Morin, is to create collaboration and mutual benefit among companies versus total disruption.

“Companies are quickly learning that the line between vertical markets is disappearing,” he said. “The greatest opportunity is facilitating the consumer experience between markets versus concentrating only on a particular vertical market.”

Connectivity Should Delight and Engage Consumers

For the automotive industry, Morin said, that means determining how best to integrate user interaction and access to data coming from outside the transportation experience.

“With the Internet of Things, the conversation we need to be having is ‘How do we create consistency for people at home, work, transportation and commercial environments?’ ‘What data do we collect and share as people transition from one environment to another?’ and ‘How will technology influence the way people use their time and energy?’” he said.

In addition, Morin said connectivity should not solely focus on “is it possible?” but rather making the connected experience useful and delightful for consumers.

Sandy Kronenberg, CEO of, envisions connectivity playing a key role in data integration among mobile companies. allows users to hire, track arrival times and pay for services such as plumbers and electricians through the convenience of an app on their phone or tablet. Through connectivity in commercial vehicles, that data can then be seamlessly transmitted between fleets, improving overall production and ROI.

“When we look at the connected vehicle, we need to look at how it can take all the systems that we’re developing and all the tools our service pros are interested in having in the field and tie that experience with our consumers,” he said.

“When you think of vehicles, you should be thinking, ‘How do we accelerate the way in which we operate and bring things to market?’” Kronenberg added.

3-D Printing, an Automotive Changemaker

3-D printing and cybersecurity are two other major automotive disruptors poised to impact the industry in the next decade.

As a global leader in 3-D printed technology, Stratasys continues to find new opportunities to work with the auto industry, particularly in tooling.

“The largest opportunity we see today is taking traditional methods of creating tools and printing them — allowing OEMs to change from heavy metal tools to thermal plastic tools that they can print overnight or in a matter of days customized for a particular process,” said Richard Garrity, vice president and general manager of Vertical Solutions for Stratasys.

3-D printing also benefits OEMs through innovative lightweighting solutions and has the potential to produce cheaper after-market parts for consumers. Garrity said 3-D printing may also eventually lead to mass customization of vehicles.

Next-Generation Mobility Requires Cybersecurity Talent

As connected and automated vehicles move closer to production, one area of major concern is a lack of talent in Michigan focused on cybersecurity software development, according to André Weimerskirch, associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s (UMTRI) Engineering Systems Group. Weimerskirch leads UMTRI’s cybersecurity and privacy research.

“Research shows that we can hack into your car and do almost anything we want,” he told the audience.

Vulnerability can include hacking into adaptive cruise control, parking assist, telematics and just about anything a car uses to communicate to itself. Addressing cyberattacks on vehicles is not as simple as running a virus program on a PC either since cars run on multiple computers, he said. Added to that fact, Weimerskirch said any infrastructure developed for connected and autonomous road driving can also be hacked. However, he said the government takes the threat seriously and continues to dedicate resources to fund research.

“There is immense opportunity for IT and software engineers right now. U.S. automakers have the highest demand for cybersecurity, we just lack the talent needed to develop better cybersecurity systems,” he said. “Our biggest challenge for next-generation mobility is talent.”