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Friday, 14 August 2020 18:19

Detroit-to-Ann Arbor Self-Driving Vehicle Corridor Aims for National Leadership

Written by Jordyn Grzelewski and Daniel Howes, The Detroit News
Rendering of a highway scene envisioning the use of the connected and autonomous vehicle corridor Cavnue looks to build from downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. Rendering of a highway scene envisioning the use of the connected and autonomous vehicle corridor Cavnue looks to build from downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. Cavnue

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Michigan is angling to build a first-in-the-nation connected and autonomous vehicle corridor in the state's southeast corner, the latest bid to ensure the region remains the epicenter of an auto industry moving rapidly into a technology-driven future.

Local and state government officials, members of Michigan's congressional delegation, Ford Motor Co. executives and project developer Cavnue confirmed plans Aug. 13 for a roadway that would stretch from downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. Along the way, it would connect to such key milestones as the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and would parallel parts of Interstate 94 to Detroit Metropolitan Airport

 

The project would be another step toward southeast Michigan staking its claim as a burgeoning hub of connected and autonomous vehicle technology development in the U.S. And, the thinking goes, it would be a visible tool to attract next-generation talent and help revise the region's narrative of decline.

 

"We want to make it very clear: Michigan is the undisputed leader in the nation's automotive landscape," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "Whether that is building cars, improving infrastructure or creating an ecosystem to solve the biggest challenges in future mobility."

 

Officials touted the project as the next chapter in Michigan's long history of leading innovation in the auto industry---and as a promise kept by Ford when it announced two years ago that it would transform Michigan Central Depot into a hub focused on the technologies driving the auto industry of the future. They also emphasized the potential for self-driving technology to make transit more accessible and equitable.

 

"Just because we have (COVID-19), China is not stopping. India is not stopping. Western Europe is not stopping," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. "And today we're telling you, we're not stopping."

 

Detroit's leading role in the auto industry has been doubted in recent years, Mayor Mike Duggan acknowledged: "Five years ago, the conventional wisdom was, the future of the auto industry was going to Silicon Valley."

 

That's changed, he said, citing recent investments here in electric and autonomous vehicle development by Google self-driving affiliate Waymo LLC, by Ford, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and by General Motors Co. 


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