U-M’s New Autonomous Vehicle Test Village Receives $13M Commitment


The 13 founding partners of the University of Michigan’s emerging Mobility Transformation Center, an autonomous vehicle test village in Ann Arbor, will commit $1 million each over three years to support the center’s work on connected vehicle technology.

The 32-acre test village — which will be completed this fall — includes four-lane roads with intersections, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians, and obstacles such as construction barriers. There, researchers will work on implementing a working system of connected and automated vehicles in Ann Arbor by 2021.

“We are on the threshold of a transformation in mobility that the world hasn’t seen since the introduction of the automobile a century ago,” says Peter Sweatman, director of the center. “Only by bringing together partners from these sectors, as well as from government, will we be able to address the full complexity of the challenges ahead as we all work to realize the opportunities presented by this emerging technology.”

The companies include Delphi Automotive, Denso Corp., Econolite Group Inc., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co., Iteris Inc., Nissan Motor Co., Robert Bosch, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Toyota Motor Co., Verizon Communications Inc., and Xerox Corp.

The partners will have access to the Mobility Transformation Center, where they will work collectively on big-system issues as well as on specific technological developments. Sweatman says the group provides a “unique nucleus for collaboration, deployment, and rapid learning in connected and automated mobility.”

Connected vehicle technology, including vehicles that can communicate with one another and with the surrounding infrastructure, has the potential to avoid the majority of serious crashes when extensively deployed, Sweatman says.

The center is also working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and industrial partners to provide sufficient infrastructure in southeast Michigan to support the deployment of 20,000 connected vehicles. The vehicles will be supported by a connected road network and developmental set of highway corridors.

“This is the next big thing for the state that put the world on wheels,” says Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT. “We are thrilled to join our partners in private industry and the University of Michigan in supporting groundbreaking research to keep our state in the lead in building the safest and most efficient vehicles in the world.”

Beyond the founding partners, a broader range of companies will engage in the work of the center as affiliates.