The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a competition to identify proving grounds for the development of self-driving cars, and the new American Center for Mobility in Michigan could be a contender.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a memo posted Wednesday on the department's website, said the Automation Proving Ground Pilot Program would select sites across the country where driverless vehicles are being developed to share best practices for safe testing and deployment.
Proposals are due Dec. 19. Chosen facilities will need to be open by Jan. 1, 2018.
"Safety is our top priority ... and over the past year we have leaned in on ushering in these innovations that will transform transportation as we know it," Foxx wrote.
The American Center for Mobility will submit a proposal, CEO John Maddox said.
A national designation "encourages people to collaborate," Maddox said. "Our concept is that there's a need for companies to work together, even those companies that compete."
Autonomous vehicles equipped with connected technology will need to be able to communicate with one another, regardless of whether it's branded Ford or Toyota or Mercedes, he said. The goal of the mobility center is to test and validate that technology works as designed.
Construction formally began this week on the estimated $80 million American Center for Mobility, which will offer highway, urban and rural simulations on more than 300 acres at a former General Motors plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. offered $20 million to build a 2.5-mile highway loop as part of its first phase, which is expected to open in December 2017.
This week, the MEDC's Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a state Renaissance Zone designation that will waive property taxes for 15 years, an incentive worth about $1.9 million annually.
The mobility center still needs to find another $60 million in funding from either the federal government or private sector. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., told Crain's Detroit Business this week that private funding is more likely.
In a statement, Peters said he believes the American Center for Mobility will be "a top contender" for national proving ground status. The department said federal funding is not attached to the designation.
"I have strongly urged the administration to designate national connected and automated vehicle testing facilities, and I'm pleased the Department of Transportation is moving forward with a competitive process to help the United States continue to be a leader in the development of advanced vehicle technologies," Peters said in a statement.
More information, including criteria, is available here.
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