“20 years ago, I’d walk into offices and pitch ideas about algorithms, artificial intelligence and the way we can use math to solve big problems. And I’d get a lot of blank stares,” said Dr. Mitchell Rohde, co-founder of Quantum Signal, the robotics and simulation firm operating out of Union School in downtown Saline.
The days of blank stares are history as the business world seems to have finally caught on to Rohde’s ideas.
Earlier this week, Ford Motor Company announced it was purchasing Quantum Signal as it races to meet its goals in the area of self-driving vehicles. Rohde was bubbling with enthusiasm when he spoke of the development earlier this week.
“All the things we’ve dreamed of and all the things we’re good at – the things we’ve pitched for and hoped for – have become a valuable commodity,” Rohde said. “It’s very gratifying.”
Quantum Signal will stay in Saline. Moreover, Ford executives have made it clear they want Quantum Signal to maintain its culture. Rohde will continue to oversee the operation. And they’ll have their own human resources department.
“Ford absolutely gets it. If you want a creative team and want to flex your mental muscles, you need to have an environment that supports that. You don’t want to be constrained by normal things,” Rohde said.
Rohde said talks with Ford started in the last six months.
“(The sale) was nothing I aspired to. But it was a good opportunity, and a good match. So we went for it,” Rohde said. “We’re going to be doing the same work as before, developing algorithms, robotics and AI. Now it’s for Ford and its future vision of mobility.”
Quantum Signal was launched in 1999 by Rohde and Dr. William Williams. There were three founding principles.
“I wanted to work on hard problems that were meaningful to society. I wanted to work with smart people I respected. I wanted to never have to dress up,” Rohde said. “We’ve grown the culture around that. And it’s stayed with us through ups and towns.”
Quantum Signal has worked on defensive industry projects for years. Until recently, Rohde said, nobody but the military was all that interested in the technology behind self-driving vehicles. But today, he said, there’s a “massive infusion” of resources to “make the future happen.”
A decade ago, Quantum Signal moved into historic Union School in downtown Saline. Rohde said the company will remain there – good news downtown businesses who love seeing Rohde’s staff come in the door for lunch or happy hour.
“For Saline, this is all good news. We’ll stay at Union School. We’ll keep developing stuff and growing our staff and contributing to downtown,” Rohde said.
Rohde estimated Quantum Signal employs about 40 people and he expects that number to grow.
For more on the sale of Quantum Signal see these stories: