Backed by the federal government as a self-driving proving ground and research hub, The American Center for Mobility is primed to be a major player in the race to build and test driverless and connected vehicles.
Back by major players in the market, the center is now valued at around $110 million; with Toyota being the first automaker to invest in the project. The Japanese automaker’s Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Research Institute subsidiaries are contributing $5 million to the self-driving vehicle research center being built in Ypsilanti Township.
The project started off as an $80 million project, but with added amenities now and other contributions it is estimated to cost around $110 million. So far, John Maddox, president for the American Center for Mobility, said the center has secured $91 million in public and private funding.
Toyota’s research institute, which has an office in Ann Arbor, has vouched for the center’s benefits, saying the closed course facility provides a great place to safely test driverless vehicles.
“As we move forward with the development of autonomous cars, we must remember that not all test miles are created equal,” Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, said in a statement. “The road to creating a car as safe or safer, than a human driver will require billions of test miles including simulation, real-world driving on public roads, and closed-course testing where we can expose our systems to extreme circumstances and conditions.”
Toyota will help the center to use its resources to its maximum potential and redesign how programs targeting education, standards and testing are run. Toyota will also become a member of a government-industry team which supports the American Center for Mobility’s efforts, to create a large-scale test environment in Southeast Michigan for autonomous vehicles. It will also have the privilege to book the facility for testing further in advance than others, which will be invaluable over the next few years.
The center, which is expected to open in December, is on a 335-acre site about 30 miles southwest of downtown Detroit. It is expected to be a major player in the race to build and test driverless and has been designated by the federal government as a self-driving proving ground and research hub.
The race to develop safe driverless cars and regulations to govern them is intensifying with legislation approved by a U.S. House committee, giving the federal government the final say over self-driving vehicle performance.