CONNECTED VEHICLES: State of Michigan approves $17 million loan for Willow Run mobility center

July 27, 2016

The recently purchased Willow Run land will house the autonomous and connected vehicle facility

The state of Michigan will spend a $17 million loan for design and construction of research facilities at the proposed autonomous and connected vehicle center in Willow Run.

The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the investment today, one week after green lighting $1.2 million to purchase 311 acres at the former Willow Run bomber plant. The land and now buildings will house the American Center for Mobility (ACM).

Users of the facility will include automakers, universities and government. The ACM, formed in April as a nonprofit entity, represents Michigan's effort to position itself as one of the hubs for development of cars that can drive themselves in clearly defined environments and that can communicate with other vehicles to avoid crashes and improve safety.

Gov. Rick Snyder and members of the Michigan congressional delegation met last week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. They asked Foxx to initiate a competitive bid for what would be a nationally certified testing and validation center for autonomous vehicles.

Designation as a national research center brings the possibility of federal funding.

Other likely competing bids could come from the Center for Advanced Automotive Research at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.; the Transportation Research Center, a former Honda test track in East Liberty, Ohio; and some comparable locations in northern California.

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