Autonomous vehicles were given a boost this spring when the American Center for Mobility opened in Michigan. Located at the historic former site of the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti Township, ACM is hoping to be the premier destination for AV testing.
“We built ACM on a collaborative approach, working with industry, government and academia on a local, regional, national and even international level,” said John Maddox, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility. He spoke to attendees at ACM’s ribbon cutting ceremony, which brought together a number of political supporters and auto industry execs.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder referred to ACM as “another huge step forward” for the state as it strives to maintain its leadership as the auto capital of the world. “[Mobility] does three things,” said Snyder. “It’s going to bring us a safer world in terms of saving lives and quality of life. It’s going to create opportunities for people – people that may be economically disadvantaged, have disabilities and other challenges in their lives. It will provide options to their lives they have not seen in the past.” Snyder added that as mobility evolves it will also bring a new level of efficiency to the infrastructure. “This is a place to be on the forefront of improving lives, of creating opportunities for our citizens in this state, but also the entire world,” Snyder continued.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley concurred, adding, “This is going to make such a big difference for our infrastructure, for our safety, but especially mobility for people that don’t have the same types of opportunities that many of the rest of us have.” Calley praised the way corporations, associations, state representatives and others came together to build ACM from the ground up. “It’s so special, so important,” Calley added. “It’s going to have such a profound impact on the entire world and it’s happening right here.”
U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, one of many staunch supporters of AV technology, expressed the importance of building a place where self-driving cars can be tested and validated. “One of the things that has surprised me is the public resistance to autonomous vehicles,” said Dingell. “Let’s be honest, the Uber accident [in March] has made people concerned. That’s why we need this test site.”
Kevin Dallas, corporate vice president, artificial intelligence and intelligent cloud business development at Microsoft, also joined the stage to discuss how the company will serve ACM as its exclusive data and cloud provider. “We see it as an opportunity to invest deeply in the first safe environment where we can test, simulate and validate connected autonomous vehicles,” said Dallas. “And then accelerate the delivery of applications and services around autonomous systems. We’re taking that very seriously.”
After the ceremony, William “Andy” Freels, President of Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI), took a moment to share his thoughts on ACM. “We became founding members at the end of last year,” said Freels. “We are literally about 15 minutes from this facility. It’s a real investment in our local R&D facility here. Initially we will start using ACM for sensor development and sensor fusion testing. Connectivity is obviously a very important part.”
While ACM is designed to serve many areas of autonomous car development, Freels thinks the primary benefits will come from testing the potential interactivity and communication between cars (V2V) and infrastructure (V2I).
“Like never before, vehicles are going to need to work together to communicate [with each other] and the infrastructure,” Freels added. “That’s really quite different from the way it has been done in the past, where we could do something completely independently. I think that’s a key point of this facility – being able to collaborate with the industry, as well as the government and the academia side of it.”
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