PlanetM Launches grant program to support mobility startups

DETROIT — Mobility startups now have access to more than $1 million in grant funding through a new statewide PlanetM program announced this week.

The two-part program includes a PlanetM Pilot Grant and a PlanetM Testing Grant, and was unveiled during the 2018 Intelligent Transportation Society America Annual Meeting held in Detroit, MI.

“The startup technology that is being tested and deployed here in Michigan will lead to real and meaningful improvements in the quality of life and access to transportation solutions throughout the state,” said Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM, the state of Michigan’s mobility-focused brand and business development program. “We’re constantly working to address the needs and challenges expressed by those actively engaged in the mobility community and we are taking it to the next level via testing and deployment.”

The PlanetM Startup grants enable mobility startups to deploy and test their technologies on Michigan’s roadways – within closed and real-world environments – with the goal of making transportation easier, safer and more affordable for Michigan residents.

“As the needs of residents change, we must develop creative solutions for addressing transit and infrastructure gaps that evolve with geographical shifts,” said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “Collaborative approaches, such as this, provide important opportunities to pilot the technology that will make our roads safer and demonstrate Michigan’s continued leadership in the mobility sector.”

Joining in the announcement were Derq, a Dubai- and Detroit-based traffic safety tech startup, and Mcity, a testing center for autonomous and connected vehicles on the campus of the University of Michigan.

Derq, which develops software using patented artificial intelligence to predict and prevent car crashes, is the first company to take part in the Pilot Grant program. As part of the pilot, Derq is launching two advanced software applications for automated and connected vehicles (CAVs) and road infrastructure, in downtown Detroit at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street. These AI-based V2X applications will focus on predicting vehicle and pedestrian-related risks around intersections, and proactively alerting fleets and vehicles equipped with Derq’s technology.

Said Georges Aoude, CEO and co-founder of Derq: “Coming from Dubai, we’re thankful to have great partners like PlanetM and MDOT in both this pilot project, and in helping us to build our business in the U.S. We’re proud to consider Michigan as our U.S. headquarters, and to be part of Michigan’s evolution as the mobility state.”

Mcity is the first advanced testing partner on the Testing Grant program, which will provide startups with a discounted fee for testing at Mcity.

“The cost to test can be a deterrent for many startups,” said Greg McGuire, lab director at Mcity. “This will allow startups to focus their resources on enhancing and demonstrating their technologies, and simultaneously works to deepen companies’ ties to Michigan and our mobility ecosystem.”

The announcement builds on the momentum of other recent pilot grant programs, including the Detroit Mobility Innovation Initiative and the $8 million Michigan Mobility Challenge, an initiative announced last week by state officials to address core mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities and veterans across Michigan.

For more information on the PlanetM Startup Grant program, visit

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