The state of Michigan and the United Kingdom continue to put money into autonomous driving research with the belief that the investments will pay dividends.
The Michigan Strategic Fund will spend $1.2 million to purchase the 311 acre Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township where it plans to operate the American Center for Mobility (ACM).
Backers want the ACM to become a world center for the development and testing of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology.
On Friday, Michigan politicos met with US Department of Transportation leadership to request the ACM be named a national testing and validation center, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, along with Rep. Debbie Dingell, met with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Mark Rosekind, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Peters told the newspaper that CAV technology should be standardized to ensure that these vehicles can ‘talk’ to each other using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.
Giving the ACM the authority to validate CAV technology could give it a competitive advantage over established test sites like the Va Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Va.
The ACM is a joint initiative of the University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan, Ann Arbor SPARK, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Chief of the ACM project John Maddox told MLive that buying Willow Run will prove to be a milestone in CAV development.
“The ability to build out Willow Run with its deep historic innovative roots to now create a center to safely validate connected and automated technology is an incredible opportunity for not just the state of Michigan, but also our country,” Maddox said.
A massive factory on the Willow Run site became known during World War II as the Fortress of Democracy as workers churned out thousands of B-24 bombers. The factory later was used as a GM powertrain facility.
$40 MILLION GRANT
In the United Kingdom the government announced it would soon launch a competition for a $40 million grant for research and development of innovative connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.
The money comes from the Intelligent Mobility Fund. In February the Fund awarded $26.5 million to a number of projects to promote driverless technology research.
There’s another $25 million fund that is helping to pay for driverless car projects in Greenwich and Bristol, and a joint project in Milton Keynes and Coventry.
Graphics by Ann Arbor Spark.