The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has received $27 million in funding from Shenzhen, China-based Frontt Capital Management, an investment firm focused on developing the intelligent vehicle industry in China. The investment will go towards driverless vehicle research.
Dr. Mark Schlissel, president of U-M, and S. Jack Hu, vice president of research at U-M, today signed a memorandum of understanding with Frontt.
The investment will establish a Joint Research Center for Intelligent Vehicles at U-M to support faculty projects on autonomous vehicle technologies, contribute toward construction of the recently approved Robotics Laboratory and a vehicle garage on U-M’s North Campus near Mcity, and provide fees for university researchers to advise Frontt on the design of an autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen, China.
“The world needs a better way for people and goods to get around, and we believe autonomous, connected vehicles are an important component of the solution,” Schlissel says. “Frontt’s investment in U-M people and technology will help advance mobility in a way that we believe will ripple across the globe.”
The facility in Shenzhen would be developed and used to test new technologies, as well as demonstrate how connected and automated vehicles could improve safety, efficiency, and sustainability in China.
Once the facility opens, Hu says U-M’s industry partners would have the ability to test their autonomous and connected vehicles in an environment that’s distinct from that of the U.S.
The university is working with companies from a variety of industries and countries across the globe, as well as the U.S. government, on the technical, social, economic, legal, political, and business challenges of deploying autonomous and connected vehicles on a large scale. U-M leaders say Frontt’s investment will further strengthen ongoing work in the technology.
The relationship with Frontt grew out of Gov. Rick Snyder’s effort to strengthen trade relations between Michigan and China. In May, Chinese government officials from Guangdong Province and its City of Shenzhen came to Michigan and joined the governor to establish the Michigan-Shenzhen Trade, Investment, and Innovation Cooperation Center.