- State confirms purchase of site for American Center for Mobility
- Michigan legislature also votes to allow self-driving cars to be tested on public roads without a human operator
The State of Michigan has confirmed the purchase of Willow Run – the 335-acre site that will become the American Center for Mobility’s state-of-the-art testing facility for connected and autonomous vehicles.
The Center will be a purpose-built proving ground focused on automated and connected technologies, which will act as a mobility hub for the automotive and tech industries and enable the safe validation of new technologies.
Laying a path for the safe testing and deployment of new vehicle technologies is a key element of the Department of Transportation’s Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which it announced in September.
“The auto industry is evolving into a mobility industry with technology that is going to revolutionize how people travel,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in a statement.
“With the American Center for Mobility, we are continuing to be a world leader in this industry, providing an advanced proving ground that will bring companies from across the globe to Southeast Michigan,” said Snyder.
In an effort to bring together organisations focused on improving transportation systems, the Center will be available for use by private industry, government, standards bodies and academia.
It will also make office space, garages and other amenities available for companies to lease.
As competition increases around the world to develop and market driverless vehicles and technologies, the new testing ground will offer research, education, testing, standards-convening, product development, validation and self-certification for connected and automated technologies.
“The American Center for Mobility will be the most advanced connected and automated vehicle providing ground in the world and will help establish greatly needed national standards for mobility technologies,” said John Maddox, the Center’s president and CEO.
Steve Atwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said: “Through the American Center for Mobility, we’re establishing a catalyst for new investment by automakers, suppliers and technology companies that want to be part of where the next-generation mobility innovations are born.
“This additional investment will continue to reflect our state’s ability to attract top-tier engineering talent and uphold our reputation as the center for the automotive industry.”
The site at Willow Run offers a number of features, including double overpasses, railroad crossings, highway loops and a tunnel, that will allow companies to replicate real-world situations in a single location. Construction on the first phase of the development is scheduled to start later this year, and the Center plans to open for business in December 2017.
Willow Run was originally used for manufacturing B-24 bombers during World War II, and more recently as a General Motors powertrain plant. Part of the bomber factory has been sold to the Yankee Air Museum, which is currently converting it into the National Museum of Aviation and Technology.
This week, in a bid to help it lead the development of self-driving vehicles, Michigan also passed legislation that would allow driverless cars to be tested on public roads without requiring a human driver to be inside the vehicle.