The following story was written by Nora Naughton, an automotive reporter for the Detroit News, and published on DetroitNews.com on December 13, 2017. Click here to view the original story as it appeared on the DetroitNews.com.
The American Center for Mobility, a 500-acre driverless car proving ground at Ypsilanti’s Willow Run, is open for business.
Visteon Corp. and Toyota Motor North America were the first to run tests this week. Others are scheduled to take the track next week. The autonomous test bed has received investments from Ford Motor Co., Hyundai and AT&T. It includes a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts.
“We are excited to be open for testing and to have our founders already leveraging the assets of this facility,” John Maddox, the center’s president and CEO said in a statement. “We have been moving rapidly, and along with good input from our founders, a great deal of work has gone into developing this site. Opening our doors is just the beginning as we continue to develop the American Center for Mobility into a global hub for CAV and future mobility technologies to put self-driving cars on America’s roads safely.”
Visteon hit the track Monday, testing its DriveCore technology — an autonomous highway driving system — in the middle of a Michigan snowstorm. The automotive supplier will also use the center to develop technology that will allow cars to communicate with other cars and with roadway infrastructure.
Toyota engineers began orientation at the site Wednesday.
The center sits on the site of the bomber plant Henry Ford built during World War II that came to symbolize the “Arsenal of Democracy.” A public-private partnership, the center was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in January as one of 10 proving grounds for developing and testing self-driving cars.
“Just as Michigan put the world on wheels, today we are leading the way in the mobility revolution,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in the statement. “The American Center for Mobility will be the place where innovations go from the drawing board to the open road. With ACM open for testing we are taking one giant step in the right direction to affirm Michigan’s place as the undisputed leader in mobility.”
The Michigan Strategic Fund approved $15 million in state funding in April for the center. The state of Michigan had previously pledged $20 million. Construction on the first phase of the American Center for Mobility began in May.
Maddox has said the American Center for Mobility will be constantly expanded as automakers develop their autonomous vehicle platforms and systems. New features will open in “stages” through December 2019. To date, $110 million has been secured for the first two phases of construction.
While founding donors Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Visteon and AT&T get first spins on the Willow Run test track, the center is also available to other companies looking to develop autonomous technologies.