Michigan Aims to be Global Leader of Autonomous Vehicles


A new partnership between the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan’s new Mobility Transformation Center will help advance the development of driverless cars, Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show.

“Michigan’s automotive future is as important as its historic past, and it is just as bright,” Snyder said. “By working together with great partners in education and the auto industry, we are strengthening our lead as the world headquarters for auto manufacturing, and research and development.”

The center will lay the groundwork required to accelerate the development of a commercially viable “ecosystem” of connected and automated vehicles, Snyder said. A key goal is to demonstrate an on-road mobility system of connected and automated vehicles and infrastructure in southeast Michigan.

As part of the center’s initiative, U-M is now working with the Michigan Department of Transportation on the design of a simulated urban environment for testing connected and automated vehicles before they are sent out in actual traffic. The test environment will include roads, intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, and obstacles such as construction barriers. Plans call for the facility — located on 32 acres on the university’s North Campus Research Complex in Ann Arbor — to be completed this fall.

The MTC’s far-reaching plan evolved in part from a study for the U.S. Department of Transportation now underway at U-M’s Transportation Research Institute. Researchers there have outfitted nearly 3,000 private cars, trucks, and buses in northeast Ann Arbor with wireless devices to communicate information that can be used to alert drivers of potential crash situations to each other as well as to similar devices located at intersections, curves, and freeway sites in the area.

Data gathered from the pilot project will be used to inform future policy decisions by the USDOT. Several manufacturers have also used the deployment to test their own approaches to hazard warning systems that could be used in such a system.

Another project will be to collaborate with MDOT to connect the freeway systems in southeast Michigan, and recruit at least 20,000 corporate and government-owned fleets, including heavy trucks, to test selected vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure functions.

“This deployment, along with the new off-road test facility, will make our state the best-equipped and safest place to test automated vehicles on open roads,” says MDOT Director Kirk Steudle.