Ford becomes second automaker to invest in Michigan test site

on Sep15

Rendering of the bridge expected to be completed as part of phase one construction of the American Center for Mobility’s autonomous vehicle test track.

Ford Motor Co. said it will invest $5 million in the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Mich., becoming the second automaker to sponsor the site.

Ford follows Toyota Motor Corp. — which announced a similar investment in July — in funding the federally designated proving ground for autonomous and connected vehicles. The Detroit automaker’s contribution brings the site’s total funds to $95 million of the $110 million needed. The center is slated to open in December.

Construction on the 311-acre site began in November. It is housed at General Motors’ former Willow Run assembly plant between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The work done at Willow Run will help drive mobility solutions across the globe,” Ken Washington, Ford’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “This is an investment in the safe, rapid testing and deployment of transformative technology that will help improve people’s lives.”

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation named Willow Run one of 10 designated automated vehicle testing sites across the country. GM has expressed verbal interest in the site, and AT&T has pledged to provide the cellular network for connected testing.

Ford has been testing its autonomous vehicles at Mcity, a simulated city center for self-driving vehicle tests at the University of Michigan, and said it will deploy its growing fleet of automated driving research vehicles in California and Arizona. In August, the automaker said it was partnering with Domino’s Pizza to research autonomous pizza delivery in Ann Arbor.

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