DETROIT -- Michigan's autonomous and connected vehicle testing site, the American Center for Mobility, officially opened this week near Ann Arbor, Mich., with Toyota and Visteon beginning testing.
Visteon Corp. and Toyota Research Institute are the first companies to be on site and use the first phase of the $135 million project, which includes a 2.5-mile highway loop with on- and off-ramps, a 700-foot curved tunnel, a customer garage and an operations center. Others are scheduled to begin next week, the center said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We are excited to be open for testing and to have our Founders already leveraging the assets of this facility," CEO John Maddox said in the statement. "We have been moving rapidly, and along with good input from our founders, a great deal of work has gone into developing this site."
The center, which is operated by a nonprofit and is a designated federal test site, received widespread support from the automotive industry and has raised $110 million from private and public sources toward the $135 million price tag for all three phases of the 500-acre site. The state approved $35 million for the nonprofit controlling the center, Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy Landholdings LP, to support the construction of the first phase and the state's Strategic Fund board also approved a state Renaissance Zone designation that waives property taxes for 15 years, worth $1.9 million per year.
Despite being federally designated, the center has thus far been unable to secure federal funding of the site.
Private investors of the center include Visteon, Toyota, Ford Motor Co., AT&T, Hyundai America Technical Center and others.
The center also recently signed partnership agreements with the state's 15 public universities to create education curriculum, retraining programs and research tracks.
The second phase of construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2018 and will feature an urban driving environment, followed by the center's headquarters and a technology park for users.
The center was created to spur autonomous vehicle research as the technology presents a significant risk to the traditional Southeast Michigan automotive market, Doug Rothwell, CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and chairman of center's board, previously told Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.
"This technology posed a hell of a lot of risk to this state," Rothwell said. "I'm heartened that everyone pulled together -- state government, the private sector, universities -- so that we could solidify our role in this growing part of the industry."
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