Michigan is one of only a few states with legislation permitting driverless car testing and deployment on public roads, along with the most connected and autonomous vehicle testing facilities to support these efforts. Its history as an auto manufacturer bedrock in the world has also helped significantly. As is, Michigan is working closely with manufacturers, suppliers and others to guarantee state laws, signs, traffic signals and road markings are all integrated into autonomous vehicles’ needs.
“We’ve established ourselves as really allowing and fostering the development of this technology in the state,” said Collin Castle, Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
The business world is responding. Continental AG and Magna are testing in Michigan, along with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, IAV Automotive Engineering Services and the Toyota Research Institute, among others. Even the academic world is getting involved, with specialized degree programs and their own testing, research and technology facilities. Perhaps the most prominent sample of this is the American Center for Mobility (ACM), which is partnering with 15 Michigan colleges and universities to create an Academic Consortium on automated vehicle testing and implementation.
“There is so much infrastructure here in terms of the supplier base to support vehicle engineering and development, including the universities and the entire ecosystem that supports the auto industry,” said Chris Hennessy, vice president of power train engineering at IAV Automotive Engineering Services. “Its engineers are familiar with the automotive industry and the architecture of electrical and control system and how to integrate these developing technologies into that vehicle architecture.”
Toyota Research Institute recently invested $5 million into a nonprofit testing and product development facility, and Google’s Waymo is eying the state for new test facilities and tech centers.
All of this points to good signs for Michigan’s future role in the autonomous industry---and its potential to benefit economically from it.