As reported in a recent Axios Autonomous Vehicle newsletter, Ann Arbor has emerged as the second largest market for autonomous vehicle-related jobs in the country. We sat down with Alex West, Ann Arbor SPARK director of research and looked a little deeper at this ranking.
The Axios story identified Ann Arbor as an emerging destination for jobs in the autonomous vehicle industry, citing Mcity and the American Center for Mobility as an explanation for the ranking. Are there any other factors that could have influenced the ranking?
Southeast Michigan is the seat of American automotive manufacturers, so it only makes sense that there is a long and rich history of automotive research and development in the Ann Arbor region. The progression of the industry into autonomous and connected vehicle innovation is a continuation of that story. In 2018, we identified nearly 200 automotive-related companies and 20,000 employees in the industry.
What are some reasons why a job seeker would choose Ann Arbor over some of the other destinations identified in the article?
I thought it was interesting to see that Ann Arbor has the smallest population compared to the others that make the ZipRecruiter ranking. This tells me that we’re clearly punching above our weight. Our proximity to the University of Michigan definitely intensifies the attractiveness of the region for both job seekers and hiring companies. U-M remains one of the top R&D universities in the country, committing $1.5 billion in annual research expenditures plus the U-M College of Engineering ranks sixth in the country. Overall, Ann Arbor offers that small-town feel powered by a robust tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
For a more detailed look at how Ann Arbor compares to Pittsburgh and other leading mobility destinations, check out the Ann Arbor SPARK 2017 benchmarking report.
What else is happening to support connected and autonomous vehicle development and leadership in the field?
In 2018, Ann Arbor SPARK hosted a number of mobility-focused events designed to advance the conversation, including the Meeting of the Minds Mobility Summit which focused on emerging autonomous mobility and smart city solutions; Mobility Row as part of the annual community event A2 Tech Trek; and the recent American Center for Mobility demo day as part of Autonomous Vehicles Testing Expo.
The state is also supporting mobility innovation through its program PlanetM which — among other services — provides grants to mobility startups. By working closely with the state as well as other destinations in southeast Michigan, we are able to nurture an even larger mobility ecosystem.
Looking forward, Ann Arbor SPARK will continue its mobility leadership when it welcomes the Network for Automotive Suppliers (AMZ) of Saxony, Germany in January 2017, as well as other events currently in development.
Job seekers can explore available careers in tech, marketing, and other professions on the Ann Arbor SPARK job portal. For upcoming mobility opportunities and events, sign up to receive the monthly SPARK Mobility newsletter.