Interactive mapping, ride sharing, and autonomous driving were the main trends at this year’s Techstars Mobility Demo Day, which was held, for the second year in a row, in Detroit.

Sponsored by IBM, and drawing thousands of auto geeks to the Michigan Opera Theatre, this program featured demonstrations of 12 interesting and innovative start-ups within the automotive technology space. The demos were delivered by the founder/CEOs in a two-minute, elevator pitch format, which made for a quick, entertaining and fast-moving presentation of a dozen dizzying innovations. Thanks to the mentoring efforts from established companies such as Ford, Verizon, Magna, Dana, Honda and Michelin, the 12 companies have, over the course of just a couple of months, been able to bring to market new technologies to solve real world problems in manufacturing, driver safety, fleet management, and ride sharing.

Here is a rundown of the 12 mobility Techstars hoping to help move the automotive industry forward:

  • Acerta: An enterprise platform that uses machine learning to detect anomalies and predict failures, i.e. “needles in a haystack”, for cars coming off the assembly line, or, being driven. CEO Greta Cutulenco.
  • Algocian: Aims to turn the Internet of Things into the Internet of Smart Things through an edge computing platform that uses deep learning to make cameras “scary” smart. CEO Karim Ali.
  • Braiq: Personalizes the rider experience in autonomous vehicles by teaching AI how to better read human emotions, which will be critical as autonomous driving scales. CEO Sameer Saproo.
  • Cargo: A kind of Birch Box for cars. The in-car marketplace for the ride-sharing economy in which drivers earn more money by providing essential goods to riders on the go. CEO Jeffrey Cripe.
  • Donut Media: The media company for the next generation of automotive enthusiasts, these guys call themselves “automotive scientists.” I call them ingenious auto content providers. CEO Matthew Levin.
  • Drive Spotter: A machine learning platform that trains human drivers and autonomous vehicles for enterprise fleets. CEO Chris Augeri.
  • Gokid:  A safe carpool solution for schools, sports teams and active families. Finally, a technology dedicated to soccer moms! CEO Dr. Stefanie Lemcke.
  • Haas Alert: A mobile V2V platform that delivers preemptive notifications to drivers, informing them of the road ahead to protect against crashes caused by first responder vehicles. CEO Cory Hohs.
  • Hero: Reduces insurers’ liability from drunk driving by providing a technology that makes it easy for over imbibers to get home safely. CEO Alex Crosby.
  • Rally: “Crowdpowered” transportation that connects groups, event goers and commuters to easily get to common locations, e.g. big sporting events, using buses. Brilliant use of under-leveraged existing transportation resources. CEO Numaan Akram.
  • Spatial: A location API that uses AI to answer questions only a local would know. Finally, a technology that takes the guesswork out of finding the best brew bar in town! CEO Lyden Foust.
  • Voyhoy: Helps people navigate the whole of Latin America by making long distance travel easier using buses, planes, trains, ferries, and ride sharing services. CEO Jake Mowkowitz.

As a marketer, I observed the following key themes and best practices from these new and promising companies:

  • About a third are either in the process of or planning to open up shop in the City of Detroit; leveraging Detroit’s engineering resources, start up infrastructure and its increasingly positive brand. 
  • Many will build on or accelerate the shift toward autonomous driving; probably the biggest automotive trend worldwide.
  • Several of the companies are founded by women, demonstrating continued progress for female techpreneurs.

As the CEO of a marketing communications firm that has mobilized dozens of auto tech companies (Parrot, MetroMile, ebay Motors, Lion Cells), it was encouraging to see so many new and varied technologies that have one thing in common: They’re fueled by Detroit – either through mentoring by local business executives and investors, or by simply being in the Motor City. It was further refreshing to have Silicon Valley tech types right here the birthplace of automotive engineering, manufacturing and innovation. I can’t wait to see what’s next up as the lines between tech and auto continue to blur and we prep for the City’s next chapter.