"The Robotics Technology Consortium was founded in 2008 because we have a lot of Michigan companies doing great stuff on robotics: Soar Technologies, Cybernet Systems, both here in Ann Arbor, and FANUC Robotics. It all came out of the Detroit auto industry's need for more automation, for higher accuracy and lower labor costs."
As for autonomous vehicles, "the technology is there now," Callihan says. "The questions are how much does it cost and what are the liabilities? Recent surveys show 20 percent of the population wants autonomous vehicles, and that 20 percent overlaps with the luxury car market. It's started already, but now it's called 'driver assisted.' In the next three or four years, Cadillac has 'super cruise control' coming, which will help you stay in your lane."
Callihan's already looking toward the next stage--he wants the state to allow testing of fully autonomous vehicles. "Nevada has already created a legal framework, and California and Florida are getting there, but there's been no efforts here in Michigan. There are companies that could do the work, but we need to have laws passed to make it legal. Now it's a gray area, so we're sending cars to Nevada to be worked on--and what sense does that make? We're Michigan!"