Michigan has long been at the forefront of experiments with self-driving cars, so it’s no surprise to see the state becoming home to the world’s first highway test facility for autonomous vehicles.
Located in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., the American Center for Mobility (ACM) is a non-profit consortium backed by Michigan’s Department of Transportation, the University of Michigan, other state-sanctioned groups, as well as major businesses. The new highway division is a part of the 500-acre headquarters and testing grounds of the center, and includes a 2.5-mile loop, with on- and off-ramps, a 700-degree curved tunnel, customer garage and operations center.
Automakers will be able to use the highway to test self-driving vehicles at speeds of 65 mph and higher, as well as to see how autonomous vehicles behave in a tunnel when they lose connection with a satellite. The outdoor facility will also enable automakers to test vehicles in winter driving conditions. By 2019, ACM plans to add an urban section including residential streets, road hazards and obstacles for advanced testing of self-driving vehicles.
Industry leaders and officials are underscoring the need for further testing for the success of autonomous vehicles in light of the tragic Uber fatality crash that took place in March in Arizona. John Maddox, the center’s CEO told Automotive News: “What happened in Tempe is a clear indication the technology needs to continue being developed. Having this facility and others like it is very, very critical for autonomous vehicles to be successful.”
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the accident in Arizona needed to be viewed as a learning experience, studied in places such as the center, to find how vehicles can be more road-ready.
Later in April, Snyder also met with officials from the United Kingdom to sign a joint memorandum of understanding to “strengthen the production of advancements” in autonomous-vehicle technology.
“This agreement creates a great partnership for Michigan and the U.K. to work closely together in the development and deployment of intelligent vehicle transportation,” Snyder said in a statement. “The technology that is enabling connected and autonomous vehicles and new mobility services is moving rapidly each day and it is essential we collaborate to harmonize global policy, regulations and standards to make transportation safe and more accessible for all.”
As the conversation about the rapid development of self-driving cars continues, I will be sure to update you with the latest news.