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Detroit, Embracing New Auto Technologies, Seeks App Builders

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A developer sketches a navigation system for an application with an intern.

Dan Ward, foreground, a founder of Detroit Labs, sketches a navigation system for an application with intern Claud Badau.

Credit: Stephen McGee/ The New York Times

The increasing use of computer technologies in automobiles has turned Detroit into a growing center for information technology employment.

The Michigan Department of Labor projects that jobs in software development for applications will grow 23.5 percent this year from 2010 levels, and software development for systems software will grow 36.9 percent.

The demand for in-vehicle applications is a "substantial job generator with high-end pay," according to University of Michigan researcher Donald R. Grimes.

So far, the jobs are mostly attracting people who already live in the area, but local businesses and government agencies want to recruit developers without ties to the region. "In general, Michigan is not perceived as the hippest place for young technology geeks," Grimes says.

Although cars have had computer-controlled systems for years, software innovation is in its early stages and there will be opportunities for workers to stand out. "This is a newfound field full of features and functionality that developers are intrigued by," says General Motors' Nick Pudar. He says the new technology coming to cars could radically change the driver's experience. For example, new apps will enable drivers to interact with their vehicles both from inside and remotely.

Cars also are increasingly relying on computers and sensors.

From The New York Times
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