Several businesses and the state of Michigan today announced an initiative to develop a first-of-its-kind corridor for connected and autonomous vehicles designed to improve transportation for communities in southeast Michigan.
The project also is designed to close gaps in access to transit and transportation across the region.
The corridor will stretch along Michigan Avenue and connect Detroit to Ann Arbor. Cavnue, a subsidiary of New York-based Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, has been selected by the state to serve as master developer of the project.
The public-private partnership will explore the opportunity and viability of the project and working with state and local partners, stakeholders, and communities.
Cavnue will work with the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, and industry and local project partners through phase one of the effort, which is expected to last about two years.
Initial project partners include Ford Motor Co., the University of Michigan, and the American Center for Mobility.
The corridor is intended to create lanes that are purpose built to accelerate and enhance the full potential of connected and autonomous vehicles. Cavnue will work with regional partners to plan, design, and develop the roadway, combining innovations in physical, digital, coordination, and operational infrastructure. The innovations are designed to help increase the safety, efficiency, resilience, and operations of roadways.
The project will be designed to evolve to meet transportation goals, beginning with connected buses and shared mobility vehicles such as vans and shuttles, and expanding to other connected and autonomous vehicles such as freight and personal vehicles.
It also will advance policy goals including improving safety, achieving neutrality among vehicle OEMs through standards-based approaches, enhancing accessibility, affordability, and equity, and aligning with regional planning. It will also encourage research and development, economic development, open data access and shared learnings, cybersecurity, and replicability.
“As the anatomy of vehicles continues to shift toward autonomous driving and electrification, Michigan has an opportunity to not only drive this evolution in the production of vehicles, but also in the very roads they drive on,” says Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer of the state of Michigan. “This groundbreaking project reinforces Michigan’s current position as a global leader in mobility innovation, and it also keeps us moving forward on a path to more equitable, safe, and environmentally conscious transportation in the state.”
Throughout the planning and development process, stakeholders will evaluate potential impacts on the transportation workforce and ensure that it supports jobs.
Through the project, leaders envision connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor along with communities and destinations along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94 in Wayne County and Washtenaw County with an innovative infrastructure solution that allows for a mix of connected and autonomous vehicles as well as traditional transit vehicles.
It will build on existing smart infrastructure investments made by the state and local communities and will link key destinations including the University of Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and Michigan Central Station. The corridor includes up to a dozen opportunity zones, where expanded mobility will connect individuals, small businesses, and communities to southeast Michigan’s industrial, technological, and academic areas.
“As a company focused on the future of infrastructure, we are thrilled to launch Cavnue to build the future of roads, and partner with Michigan and the communities along the corridor on a first-of-its-kind CAV corridor,” says Jonathan Winer, co-founder and co-CEO of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners.
During the feasibility analysis in phase one, work will focus on technology testing and roadway design and will explore different financial models with an aim toward determining project viability from both technology and business perspectives. Subsequent construction and implementation would be part of future phases of the project, to be determined following the initial two-year period.
“The time has come to start to integrate all of the momentum happening on the vehicle technology side with an equally strong push for innovation on our road assets themselves,” says Brian Barlow, co-founder and co-CEO of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. “We believe that combining technology and physical infrastructure can help unlock the full potential of CAVs and fundamentally transform mobility to improve safety, congestion, and public transit.”
Cavnue expects to draw on an ecosystem of partner firms that bring global and Michigan-based capabilities in mobility, infrastructure and technology, planning, development, research, and engineering.
“This project, and the decision by Cavnue and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners to invest here, continues to reinforce that the future of mobility will be designed and built in Detroit and southeast Michigan,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Today’s announcement took place in front of Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, which Ford purchased in 2018. Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford, envisioned a connected corridor linking Detroit to Ann Arbor as part of Michigan Central’s development, saying the hub would be an east end node in a circuit running from Detroit to Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
“My vision for Michigan Central is to create an open mobility innovation district that solves tomorrow’s transportation challenges and improves mobility access for everyone,” Ford says. “Building out a connected corridor cements Michigan as a leader in creating a more connected, autonomous, and electrified future. We thank the state for recognizing the community and economic benefits and the importance of creating smart infrastructure across southeast Michigan.”
Cavnue will develop OEM-neutral standards and technology for the implementation of the corridor and permit connected and autonomous vehicles meeting for specified safety and other standards to operate on the corridor regardless of the vehicle manufacturer. In developing OEM-neutral standards for the implementation of the corridor, Cavnue will draw on an advisory committee of automotive and autonomous mobility companies, including Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Ford, GM, Toyota, TuSimple, and Waymo.
Connected and autonomous vehicles are designed to reduce traffic crashes caused by human error, cut time commuters spend in traffic, and increase access to personal and shared mobility options. According to the Michigan State Police, there have been almost 10,000 fatal automobile crashes in the state in the last decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 94 percent of automobile crashes are attributed to human error.
To date, the Michigan Department of Transportation has activated the largest vehicle-to-infrastructure technology deployment – nearly 600 miles – in the United States. Michigan also is home to the most diverse collection of autonomous vehicle and drone testing environments in the world, more mobility-related patents than any other state, and more engineers per capita than anywhere else in the world.