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Michigan looks to Israel for autonomy tech

Israel seen as world leader in self-driving technology and cybersecurity

Published: February 7, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: February 10, 2017, 3:08 PM

Ford MIT Research vehicle roof

As the auto industry speeds toward autonomous vehicles, one country is starting to emerge as a prime-time player in the industry — Israel.

The company has acquired a reputation in the recent past in areas of technology and cybersecurity, both of which are extremely desirable in the development of autonomous vehicles. And Israel is home to some 500 start-ups dealing with the self-driving technology.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently visited Israel and reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US is looking at Israel for its leadership in the autonomous driving technology developments, according to a video Netanyahu posted on Facebook.

Snyder told the Jerusalem Post that he considered the development of intelligent vehicles “the most exciting area in technology,” in the way it blends the futuristic information technology industry with the traditional auto industry, forcing workers and decision makers in each industry to learn the ways and the operational practices of the other.

Naturally, Snyder is hoping to see partnerships between his state, which is still home to the bulk of the North American auto industry, and Israel as the push toward self-driving cars intensifies. But in his interview with the JP, Snyder says he doesn’t see that as trade agreements on goods, but rather in exchanges of intellectual property.

And a big topic of discussion about the latter is cybersecurity, as people worry about hackers gaining control of their vehicles or sabotaging them in some form of cyber terrorism.

“Even today, cars can be hacked,” Snyder said in the JP interview. “So, it is important that we be pre-emptive and get on top of that. We are going to have to have cyber security just as you do for your personal computer and mobile devices.”

Snyder told the Post that he attributes Israel’s leadership in information technology to a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as military training, noting that many of the hundreds of start-ups were created by former member of military-intelligence and national-security units.