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Testing Starts at New Driverless Car Proving Ground Near Detroit

Toyota and Visteon this week became the first companies to begin testing at a new autonomous and connected automotive testing site near Detroit that several self-driving car developers are expected to use.


The American Center for Mobility, a U.S. Department of Transportation-designated testing center, includes a 2.5-mile highway loop, a long, curved tunnel, two double overpasses and intersections and roundabouts. Several companies are expected to use the 500-acre center to test new driverless car designs. Less-than-perfect road conditions, including faded street markings, potholes and construction barrels are used to simulate driving scenarios that driverless cars will have to navigate.

“Just as Michigan put the world on wheels, today we are leading the way in the mobility revolution,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement released by the center. “The American Center for Mobility will be the place where innovations go from the drawing board to the open road. With ACM open for testing we are taking one giant step in the right direction to affirm Michigan’s place as the undisputed leader in mobility.”

Other companies are slated to start testing at the proving grounds next week.

Visteon is using the $135 million facility to test its autonomous driving platform in “challenging conditions,” the company said.

“The variety of situations that may confront an autonomous vehicle seems endless, but the automotive industry is tackling all of them, seeking to build algorithms that can manage any challenge that the vehicle encounters,” Visteon said in a blog post last week. “To achieve this daunting goal, the algorithms and associated equipment must be tested in a realistic, flexible setting that can be monitored and controlled, so real highways and downtowns are not the best places to determine if an engineer’s latest software tweaks really do the job.

“At ACM, virtually any type of driving environment can be custom-designed for testing by the industry. We can test autonomous driving in a simulated rainstorm, where glare from the road can interfere with sensors. We can turn off the lights in a tunnel to imitate a power failure. We even can create a snowstorm without needing to wait for January in Michigan.”

Toyota engineers were also at the site this week to begin testing. Both Visteon and Toyota were among the founding companies developing the site.

“Opening our doors is just the beginning as we continue to develop the American Center for Mobility into a global hub for (automated vehicles) and future mobility technologies to put self-driving cars on America’s roads safely,” said John Maddox, President and CEO of the facility.

The testing center is at the historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., where B-24 bombers were built during World War II.


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