Former Intel exec to lead Michigan mobility center

DETROIT — After a leadership shakeup last year, the American Center for Mobility has hired a former executive in Intel’s automotive division as its permanent CEO.

Michael Noblett will replace interim CEO Kirk Steudle, who served as the suburban Detroit autonomous and connected-vehicle test site’s top executive since August, effective Monday, Feb. 25.

Noblett takes over at ACM after a turbulent year that saw several of its top executives depart. In April, Andrew Smart, chief technology officer, left the organization, and COO Laurel Champion exited in June. CEO John Maddox departed in August. Maddox is now the senior director of autonomous safety and compliance at Lyft.

ACM is a public-private partnership run by a nonprofit in conjunction with the state’s Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s SPARK business accelerator and Ypsilanti Township. Leaders have touted it as a way to ensure high-paying auto industry jobs remain entrenched in Southeast Michigan.

The state approved $35 million for the nonprofit that controls the joint partnership for the first phase of construction. By the time future phases are complete, the organization expects to spend $135 million on the overall construction of the facility.

Seven companies, including Toyota Motor Co. and Visteon Corp., paid $5 million apiece to be considered founding members of the facility. “Supporting” member Subaru and five other companies paid $2 million for ongoing use of the track. It’s not just for traditional automakers and suppliers. AT&T and Microsoft have been using the facility to advance next-generation automotive connectivity.

The facility is also leading an industry study on truck platooning and researching how autonomous driving technology may affect the nation’s workforce.

It’s unclear whether the investors were unhappy with the former ACM leadership or if they wanted to revise its goals. ACM’s board believes Noblett can take the test site from its startup-like operation to a mature organization that can deliver on its stated promise of becoming the premier autonomous vehicle validation site in the U.S.

“The interest from industry and demand for greater programing at ACM hasn’t slowed since the doors opened in December 2017,” Steudle, who also retired as the director of MDOT in October, said in a press release. “As ACM moves into this new phase, I am confident Michael is the right leader to ensure forward movement and growth in the years to come.”

Noblett joins Mark Chaput, who was recently promoted to COO from vice president of operations and construction, and Jeff Rupp, who joined the organization in May as chief technical officer and chief safety officer.

In September, ACM was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy grant to examine fuel-efficient commercial truck platooning. It’s also collaborating with its 23-member academic consortium to develop technical training programs, it said in a press release.

Noblett joins the ACM team from Intel, where he served as the global segment lead of automotive industry sales. Before that, he served as a solutions manager for IBM’s North American Internet of Things division. He also spent several years as an engineering manager at General Motors.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit.