An Ideal Site for Testing
The 335-acre Willow Run site, where B-24 bombers were made during World War II in a factory built by Henry Ford, will become a national-scale advanced automotive testing and product development center that can accommodate the broad needs of industry and government, test various weather conditions including ice and snow, and provide room to grow and adapt as technology dictates. Willow Run is a cost effective location for this type of activity, with numerous structures already in place, including double overpasses, which will serve as the perfect environment for researching and testing mobility technologies. The center will focus on testing, verification and certification of connected and automated vehicles.
The American Center for Mobility is a joint initiative among the State of Michigan – including the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Economic Development Corp., the University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK. The board of directors is comprised of representatives from U-M, Business Leaders for Michigan and SPARK, which initiated the project and will play a key role in economic development tied to the center. Automotive industry and community advisory boards will also be established. Founding board members include Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan; Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK; Jon Kinsey, assistant vice president for research at U-M, and U-M Mobility Transformation Center Director Huei Peng.
The Ypsilanti based connected vehicle research center will be a place where precautionary testing is done before vehicles are deployed on the road and a proving ground for collaborative safety technology demonstrations. It will also serve as a high technology research and development facility that will allow companies to lease space for office and research use, garages, and other amenities, ultimately expanding the region’s business incubation and acceleration capabilities around automotive technology.
Ann Arbor – A Center of Research for Mobility
The future of the automotive technology in Michigan is bright, and the Ann Arbor region continues to be a driver as we move towards a future of mobility. Over the past several years, the region has been at the center of the Smart Corridor, involved in a connected vehicle safety pilot, conducted by University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and funded in large part by U.S. Department of Transportation. The pilot deployed thousands of connected vehicles on the streets of Ann Arbor. In July 2015, UMTRI opened Mcity, a unique space at the University of Michigan that allows for research and development of connected and automated vehicle technology. The largest automotive employers are Faurecia Interior Systems, Toyota Technical Center, and Ford Motor Company. In addition, Hyundai, Subaru, and Mercedes Benz established research divisions in the Ann Arbor area. Now, our region is poised to add another significant piece of the mobility landscape, like the American Center for Mobility, in the United States.