Wednesday, 27 April 2016 13:29

Michigan Moves on Self-Driving Testing Facility

Michigan is making a bid to retain its title as the auto capital of the world, even as the industry turns more toward connected and autonomous vehicles.

The former Willow Run General Motors powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township is becoming a development and testing site for autonomous vehicles called the American Center for Mobility, the first facility of its kind in America that brings together government, industry and academia on the technology.

The state of Michigan is expected to provide $20 million in funding toward the $80 million development of the Willow Run site, which is a joint initiative between the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corp., UM, BLM and Ann Arbor Spark. The center will feature a 2.5-mile loop that will serve as a simulated highway with ramps, bridges, merge lanes, signs, changes in elevation and potentially a curved tunnel, Maddox said. Vehicles will be able to travel at highway speeds up to 80 mph.

It will also feature a large configurable intersection and areas to simulate urban, suburban and commercial area (a mall or freight center) as well as an off-road section for possible military vehicles.

In May, Ann Arbor Spark was awarded a nearly $250,000 grant to develop a plan for the center at Willow Run. The grant was awarded as part of a program by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In Michigan it is legal to test driverless-cardriverless cars on public roads under Public Act 231 and Public Act 251, both of which were signed in 2013 and went into effect soon thereafter. Referred to as “automated motor vehicles” under the law, in order to operate them (for the purpose of testing and refining the technology), here are some of the guidelines which govern the use of self-driving cars in MI:

  •  Autonomous vehicles must be properly insured under the no-fault law;
  •  Transporters of these vehicles must carry the requisite public liability and property damage insurance;
  • The vehicles can only be operated by designated individuals authorized by the manufacturer of the technology;
  • The person operating the self-driving vehicle must be present and must be able to take control of the vehicle at all times; and
  • The human operator must also be properly licensed to operate a motor vehicle in MI.