Work starts on new American Center for Mobility CAV testing facility


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder joined state officials and automotive technology leaders to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the long-anticipated American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township, which will serve as a state-of-the-art global center for testing, education, and product development for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs).

Located on the 335-acre Willow Run site, a former General Motors powertrain plant where B-24 bombers were made during World War II, the Center will be a purpose-built facility designed for research, education, testing, standards-convening, product development, validation and self-certification for CAV technologies, as well as future mobility systems. Earlier this month, Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy (WRAD) Landholdings Limited Partnership completed the US$1.2m purchase of the property from RACER Properties LLC, which paved the way for construction of the new facility. WRAD will lease the property to the American Center for Mobility.

The Center is designed to enable technology development and to accelerate the development of voluntary standards to improve transportation systems and ensure the USA’s competitiveness worldwide. The Center will be available for use by private industry, government, standards bodies and academia, and will serve as a technology hub, allowing companies to lease office space, garages, and other amenities. There also is sufficient room for additional economic investment by companies looking to expand existing, or build new, facilities close to the testing ground.

“Michigan is reinventing the way the world moves. We are second-to-none when it comes to automotive and technological innovation, and we remain committed to making sure that stays true for generations to come,” said Snyder. “This world-class facility will put Michigan at the forefront of the autonomous movement to ensure we lead the way, as the auto industry transforms into the mobility industry.”

John Maddox, president and CEO of the Center, explained, “We envision the American Center for Mobility as a global hub for connected and automated vehicle technologies, supported by Michigan’s high concentration of automotive expertise. We are excited to be partnering with the state of Michigan to establish a fully-capable, real-world testing and innovation center that will be instrumental in putting self-driving cars on America’s roads.

“This is the start of a new era at a site incredibly rich with history. While there are many well-known transportation and manufacturing innovations at this site, the first use of this property was as a teaching orchard developed by Henry Ford. We’re planting an apple tree here today to honor the heritage, and continue the tradition of innovation, education, and good stewardship.”

Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), commented, “The American Center for Mobility represents a turning point for the automotive industry, and will play a key role in revolutionizing the global transportation landscape. This investment will not only solidify Michigan’s place as the home for automotive innovation, but also help fuel new economic activity and create more and better jobs across the state.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).