A Future Where Possibilities are Both Endless and Realized: Michelin Movin’On Conference

Michelin Conference

Collaboration is the new competition. And, there is cake!

If Cirque du Soliel staged a conference with acrobats and high-flying sessions, under a big top and in an art gallery outfitted with boutique-like meeting spaces elevated on scaffolding, with a central bakery that wafts the scent of cake through the space, all surrounded by food trucks and shipping container lounges, you’d have to wonder: is it possible to get any work done here?

But how deceiving—and freeing and inspiring—a space like this can be, especially when it’s filled with big ideas and opportunities to collaborate with top thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs, startups, artists and visionaries from around the globe.

What naturally happens is kismet: ideas are sparked, moonshots are born and in the case of the Michelin Movin’On Conference, 4,000 people embark on the next phase of changing the world through sustainable mobility. (Keep reading for some of the amazing innovations that were shared!)


Michelin Conference

Entering the Movin’On space transports attendees to another dimension, one big on ideas and collaboration. Photo: Phil Van der Vossen

The future of how we get around is not ‘automotive,’ it’s ‘mobility’ 

Automotive is just one of the ways we get where we’re going. But if, like a growing portion of the world’s population, we live in a city or are under the age of 30, mobility is the more fitting term. And that glass rectangle of connected technology is in your hand. It’s your key to mobility—even your car.

Michelin recognized long ago that it needed to understand, innovate and collaborate in order to be a part of the future. So in 1998 the tire company started a series of conferences designed to bring the top visionaries in the world of mobility together to collaborate on the future of sustainable mobility.

Sustainability is a subject that really hits home with Michelin: tires are not recyclable, tires have a huge impact on fuel efficiency and if tire companies don’t look out for the future, they’ll be jettisoned from it (that goes for pretty much all of us).

Michelin Conference

“Dirty Feet” by Sarah Anne Johnson, reminded us of the importance of mobility and the mission of the conference. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Mobility is critical to our future. It’s not just convenience.

Jean Todt, president of FIA, the governing body over international motorsports, and United Nations Envoy for Road Safety, told a chillingly frightening story: 3,500 people die from car crashes every DAY. Not because of the crash but because they lack the access to health care to recover from the crash. Mobility solutions, especially autonomous driving, can eliminate 99% of those crashes, saving all those lives. Wow.

As we walked between the meeting spaces and Big Top speeches, we passed by this one sculpture that really hit the idea home: a man who is the picture of immobility; his only opportunity for mobility are his feet, which are worn and dirty; the piece is called “Dirty Feet” by artist Sarah Anne Johnson. And truly, without mobility, we lack access to jobs, food, family, health care and the things that make a vibrant life possible.

See how Honda is pushing personal mobility initiatives

Michelin Conference

A meeting in one of the boutique spaces on the second floor of a scafolded space. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Collaboration is the new competition

Now you have to admit, this is a pretty brilliant strategy: Hold a huge conference, bring in top thinkers from all over the world and get their ideas to contribute to your solutions.

After all, we now live in a world where we have access to amazing information, once-secret data is just a short search away, transparency means you have no secrets and, really, the world’s just a smaller place: you can talk to just about anyone. This makes competition more difficult and collaboration is a must: partner with others who have skills you don’t and you both win. This is very much the idea and process of Movin’On.

See how Ford envisions the future of Mobility

Michelin’s mission: Drive the future of sustainable mobility

The Movin’On Conference just wrapped up in Montreal, Canada. Here are just some of the amazing ideas that were shared:

Michelin Sustainable Tire

Michelin’s concept for a sustainable tire starts with this solid wheel made of recyclable plant materials. Photo: Michelin

Introducing the Michelin Visionary Concept: A tire for the future

This in itself is a reason to throw such a big shindig: a tire that is fully plant based, recyclable, solid (so, not inflated), comfortable to ride on, can be easily retreaded and is embedded with electronics to communicate it’s status and needs to the driver.

Because mobility—mass transit, personal cars, recreational vehicles and more—needs tires. And tires represent one of the biggest opportunities in sustainable development; it isn’t transportation’s greenest segment.

But beyond the green aspect of the Visionary Concept is the concept of 3-D printing of your tire’s tread. Tread wears off? Pull into a printing station and more is added to your tire. Need winter tires? Winter tread can be added. Your car’s ride feeling a little rough? Add more tread for a softer ride. Never having to buy new tires is a very appealing idea. You can see Terry Geddys, head of innovation for Michelin, share the idea here.

Read all about the Michelin Visionary Concept tire.

Hyperloop takes the time out of travel

With a mission of transporting people and cargo through fast, direct travel, Hyperloop CEO Rob Lloyd described the company’s development of enclosed tubes that’ll shoot pods of people, cargo and cars using vacuum power, electromagnetic rails and high speed. Essentially, he said, you’ll load your car and family into a pod, select your destination, then go straight there in a short time, such as San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes.

High speed travel solves the issue of geography, Lloyd says; workers in Silicon Valley could live in the LA’s San Fernando Valley; New York executives could go to Los Angeles for a meeting and be home for dinner.

Hyperloop, which was started by Elon Musk in 2012, is currently testing its infrastructure in the Nevada desert and expects to unveil a passenger-ready system in Dubai in 2018.

Michelin Conference

Darryl Pollica shows off the Simple Fuel appliance, which creates hydrogen for refueling and can be located anywhere. Photo: Greentown Labs

A stand-alone appliance that makes fuel for your car: meet Simple Fuel

This might be my favorite idea on display during Movin’On: a stand alone hydrogen fueling station that creates its own hydrogen. All it needs is water and electricity and it can fast and efficiently refill a fuel cell car or truck; this unit also has an electric charging station (for those old fashioned EVs).

OK, it’s not as fast and efficient now as it will be in the future (that’s the nature of technology, right?) but it can create enough hydrogen to refuel 6-7 cars in a day, or for a small fleet of trucks, enough to replace each truck’s daily expenditure of hydrogen. Think about it: the day will come when your house is powered by solar energy and a SimpleFuel appliance in your garage will generate hydrogen for your Hyundai Tucson fuel cell SUV with water from your well. Talk about sustainable!

Simple Fuel, which was the winning entry in the H2 Refuel H-Prize competition for the development of hydrogen refueling stations, is available now for small businesses and cost about $250,000, much of which can be underwritten by government rebates and subsidies. But it’s not too far off when these will be available for home use or replace gas pumps at Shell stations.

The future is…flying cars??? Uber Elevate thinks so

Remember how The Jetsons sped from one place to another in a flying car? Well, turns out that Uber doesn’t think that’s so far fetched; Uber Elevate is working to bring air taxis to the market by 2020. Dr. Mark Moore, former NASA and now director of aviation for Uber, shared the view that Uber is quickly developing, with testing rolling out soon in Texas.

Don’t remember The Jetsons? Take a look at how their creators envisioned the future—pretty accurately, as it turns out.

Michelin Conference

Michelin’s E-drive motorized bike; the rear wheel, rechargeable motor and frame that it clips into will be on sale in March in Europe. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Biking without sweating or sharing: Michelin E-Drive electric bike

We’ve been waiting for this: a $500 battery operated motor that can be adapted to almost any bike. The kit comes with a wheel, a rechargeable motor and a frame that marries the motor with the wheel. Pop the wheel on, install the frame and click the motor in place and you are powered to ride up to about 25 miles at 15MPH, totally sweat free.

Set to roll out in Europe in March, the E-Drive motor is stored in its own carrying case, is lightweight and just like your phone and laptop, can be plugged in to recharge in a home or office. Park and lock your bike, take the motor with you and charge while you’re having coffee.

And of course the e-bike sports tires specifically designed for electric bikes, with lower resistance (for more speed and less energy exerted for that speed) and great traction on wet surfaces. 

Michelin Conference

As the cake was baked it was assembled in this terrarium; a large glass cover dropped down to cover it and dry ice kept it fresh. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Did someone say cake?

Yes, there was cake! Throughout the conference the most popular and most difficult to reserve session was called Cake. In 45 minute sessions, groups of a dozen people gathered in a studio kitchen and learned various principles of baking (butter, flour, leavening, flavor and more) and join in a discussion all while chopping and preparing ingredients for the next layer of cake. Layers and cremes produced were then assembled in an oversized terrarium and at the end of the conference, the cake was cut and shared with attendees. You can see the team effort it took to cut this cake on our Periscope broadcast.

Michelin Conference

The finished cake just before it was cut to and offered to the group. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Bonjour Montreal, vous faites chanter mon coeur

Another star of the show was the city of Montreal. Cosmopolitan, modern, French, global, future-thinking, the city was an ideal host for Movin’On. At the end of the meeting Montreal mayor Denis Corderre and Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard jointly announced that in 2018 Movin’On will return to Montreal. Bravo.

“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one” John Lennon

Disclosure: I was Michelin’s guest for Movin’On, and travel and accommodations were provided. Opinions expressed are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss