iPod creator Fadell joins the auto industry
Tony Fadell chatted with Autoweek Publisher Dutch Mandel at Crain’s Detroit Homecoming event Friday. Photo credit: Chris Ehrmann/Crain’s Detroit Business
DETROIT — iPod creator Tony Fadell, who is also the founder and former CEO of Nest Labs, is now in the car business.
Granted, his vehicle is a $999 go-kart that will go into production in China next week. But he says his company, Actev Motors, is part of the technological tapestry representing where cars are going and what Detroit needs to succeed in the future of mobility.
The $999 go-karts are connected to the internet and cater to children 5-9 years old. The carts go into production in China next week, but Bell said the plan is to bring final assembly to the U.S., hopefully in Detroit.
Fadell chatted with Autoweek Publisher Dutch Mandel at Crain’s Detroit Homecoming event Friday. Autoweek and Crain’s Detroit Business are affiliates of Automotive News.
“It’s all about the software and sensors,” Fadell said. “(The auto industry) has been focused on the wrong thing for so long. Now we’re wondering what the world is going to look like in 2035.”
Fadell is a Detroit area native who earned a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan.
He said Detroit’s challenge is a cultural, not technological.
“These cultures have been built up over decades, centuries,” Fadell said. “To change a culture is too hard. You create cultures.”
That happens by refocusing on the future of automotive — like car sharing, electrification and autonomous cars.
“Today, you don’t buy just one pair of shoes, but that’s what you do with a car,” Fadell said. “Now we can get a pickup from Uber. And today, I may need a compact car, but a van tomorrow. Consumers are going to be choosing that pair of shoes that fits the need. That’s the dramatic change coming by 2035.”
Fadell also called for the vacant space in Detroit to be used for testing of advanced automotive technologies. This is already happening outside the city limits.
The state is establishing an $80 million connected and autonomous car test bed at Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township. UM also operates a similar test site called MCity in Ann Arbor.
Vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure tech is installed along a 125-mile stretch of road from I-96 near General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds, I-94 from Ann Arbor to metro Detroit, U.S. 23 from Ann Arbor to Brighton, and elsewhere. Systems are also used on Congress and Larned streets and Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.