NAIAS Adds B2B Matchmaking Platform as Detroit Auto Show Keeps Expanding AutoMobili-D – Forbes

Expect the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) to keep evolving into a broad business-to-business platform meant to tap ever more deeply into the technological direction being taken by the global auto industry, as the Detroit auto show keeps extending from its roots as the traditional premier American showplace for news and views about the latest in cars.

Last year, the exhibition run by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA) each January took it first huge step toward capturing activity around self-driving by launching AutoMobili-D, which staged a big display area for suppliers, startups and others in the space and conducted dozens of seminars and panels that brought hundreds of people together to discuss the technological future of the industry.

Now NAIAS has just announced that it is adding a business-to-business and business-to-industry connection platform with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which will be a first for an auto show. The state’s economic development organization, as well as NAIAS and Techstars Mobility, will curate and create a series of vetted, pre-scheduled meetings at AutoMobili-D that will provide exhibitors with new business and industry connections.

“This platform will accelerate the kinds of meetings that used to maybe just be happenstance,” Rod Alberts, executive director of NAIAS, told me. “It’s going to bring great value to everyone. It’ll almost be like an eHarmony platform for people and companies in the industry and mobility technologies.

“We can create opportunity with this matchmaking idea. It represents quite an advance in our second year of AutoMobili-D. We’re taking it to new heights.”

NAIAS launched AutoMobili-D last year in large part as a counter-offensive against other exhibitions that had begun to use automated-driving technologies, and advances in the arena by tech giants such as Google, as a wedge to get more attention and exhibits by automakers, digital-tech companies, software startups and other enterprises that had begun clustering around technology that wasn’t the exclusive domain of traditional automakers. The International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and, of course, other big auto shows around the globe were establishing themselves as significant generators of news about self-driving technology, with automakers as willing participants.

Alberts called the first AutoMobili-D a great success, as more than 180 brands exhibited in 120,000 square feet of exhibit space and as newsmakers in the driverless-car space, and vast numbers of experts, informed show-goers and one another about the latest developments. For example, the keynote speaker in the inaugural event was John Krafcik, head of Waymo, Google’s automotive unit, who shared details about Waymo’s deal with Chrysler to outfit 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans with self-driving systems. That fleet still comprises one of the biggest ongoing tests of driverless-vehicle technology.

In 2018, NAIAS plans to expand AutoMobili-D exhibit space to more than 150,000 square feet and to double the number of universities that are exhibiting at the show, among other improvements.

“AutoMobili-D isn’t just about product,” Alberts said. “It’s also about sharing knowledge, and bringing everyone together. Everyone wants to be around the next big idea.”

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