Michigan Test Site Awarded Federal Autonomous Car Proving Ground

The U.S. Transportation Department gave the nod to Michigan as one of 10 locations in a competition for self-driving car test sites as federal regulators move to implement new guidelines for autonomous cars.

The American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti Township, a 311-acre portion of the Willow Run WWII B-24 bomber plant, will be transformed into a test facility for cars and trucks that drive on their own and talk to each other.

Winning facilities will need to be operating by Jan. 1, 2018, a date that ACM will eclipse with a 2.5-mile highway loop expected to open by December.

“The designated proving grounds will collectively form a community of practice around safe testing and deployment,” outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing.”

Although the proving ground designation apparently does not include federal funding, the Michigan Strategic Fund, committed $20 million for the highway loop segment.

An additional $60 million in funding will be needed and ACM is lobbying the federal government and private sector firms. AT&T has signed on as the first corporate partner, which will be the exclusive provider of cell phone service through 2020.

SEE ALSO: U.S. Army Begins Driverless Vehicle Tests in Michigan

According to the Detroit News, when completed, the site will include a downtown area with building facades, a highway-speed loop with merging, lane-changing and cloverleafs, a rural area with unmarked gravel roads, a residential/suburban area and a simulated strip-mall parking lot.

Postwar, General Motors used the site for vehicle assembly and transmission production and some of that infrastructure will be utilized.

ACM sees the Willow Run site as a compliment to the nearby Mcity, an 18-acre autonomous-vehicle test center featuring simulated urban and suburban roads and infrastructure at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In the hustle and bustle by automakers, tech firms and ride hailing companies to develop a breakthrough autonomous car, the battle between Silicon Valley and Detroit has emerged. California was awarded two testing sites.

Out of the 60 applications for proving ground designation, the other test facilities will be located in Florida, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

Detroit News


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