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MI, IA, VA, Others Target Future Demand for Autonomous, Connected Vehicles

June 04, 2015

Uber and the City of London are among the growing number of backers of a nearly driver-free world. Proponents of autonomous vehicles contend that they will lead to large cost savings for both consumers and transportation organizations while delivering a faster, more efficient transportation experience. However, there are still major strides to be made before the technology can be safely deployed in real world settings. Several U.S. states, cities, and the Canadian Province of Ontario have recently announced initiatives in an attempt to position themselves as leaders in the rapidly growing industries of autonomous and connected cars.

Several new initiatives to support the Michigan’s growing autonomous and connected car industry clusters have recently been announced. The long-time home of the U.S. auto industry, Michigan hopes to remain a global hub for next-generation automotive technologies as they evolve.  

MICHauto, an economic development program led by the Detroit Regional Chamber, announced the Michigan Mobility Initiative – an effort to support high-tech research and development into self-driving cars, connected vehicles, new fuel technologies and other important vehicle innovations. Objectives include:

  • Committing to build Michigan’s physical infrastructure and the policies to support it;
  • Capitalizing on existing and developing R&D and innovation assets across the state to support economic growth;
  • Using Michigan’s brand as an automotive leader to demonstrate to the technology and automotive industries; and,
  • Ensuring Michigan’s secondary and higher education systems are prepared to develop talent to support deployment and advancement of next-generation mobility.

Ann Arbor SPARK also recently received a federal grant that will allow the tech-based economic development organization to bring together key regional stakeholders to develop a plan for the Connected Vehicle (CAV) Development Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The CAV Development Center is intended to be a central facility that meet the needs of the connected vehicle mobility-technology industry cluster. The proposed cost of the facility will be about $90 million according to an article on autoblog.com.

The University of Michigan announced that it will open a hub for testing self-driving cars according to the Detroit Free Press. The facility will include a 4.2 mile track that will allow students, automotive engineers, and industry experts to test vehicles; develop and refine software; and, analyze how they perform in near real-world conditions. The track is scheduled to be open in late July.

Ontario, CA
Through its Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE), the Canadian Province of Ontario pledged $1 million CD ($800,000 USD) to support innovative and commercially viable projects through the Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle Program. The awards will be made to both private companies and academic/nonprofit researchers. In addition to providing support, the OCE also launched an internship program to support up to 50 practicums (four-month learning opportunities with Ontario-based industry partners) that will provide graduate students and undergraduate students in their final year of study with real-world experience at a company in the connected vehicle or autonomous vehicle industries.

Paul Trombino, Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, announced that the state is considering opening the state’s first autonomous-vehicle-only road. The slow-speed roadway in Iowa City may be an attempt to recruit Google and others interested in autonomous vehicle testing to the area. It also would be near the University of Iowa and could serve as a way for the state to position itself as a leader in the field, create jobs, and spur innovation.

With the backing of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) announced the Virginia Automated Corridors program – a new initiative that will expand the institute’s research on self-driving vehicles. In partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation and others, VTTI will open a 70 mile corridor of interstate and arterial highways in Northern Virginia to conduct projects that place self-driving cars on Virginia roads. VTTI also will leverage two regional test-tracks to safely test technologies in non-real world settings – the VTTI’s Smart Road in Montgomery County and the Virginia International Raceway. 






Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, Internationalr&d