Faraday Future, the California-based electric car startup owned by a Chinese billionaire, wants to test driverless car technology on Michigan’s public streets, according to state officials.
Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, told The Detroit News that Faraday Future contacted him in January about how to apply for plates to test self-driving vehicles here. The company has since applied for three manufacturer license plates.
The state requires that any automaker or company that wants to test vehicles on Michigan roadways apply for a manufacturer plate. They’re required to show proof of Michigan no-fault insurance and pay a registration fee.
A Faraday Future representative did not confirm or deny the company would use the plates to test autonomous vehicle technologies.
“The plates will be used to help test various FF-vehicle prototypes and features,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We cannot comment on the specifics of those tests at this time.”
The Michigan plate application is a significant milestone for the company, which made its public debut in January at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas. It’s backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting and has about 700 workers at a former Nissan sales office near Los Angeles.
Faraday Future has been testing “mules” — test cars used to analyze powertrain and chassis systems before full prototype vehicles are developed — for about a year now. The company told The News it’s tested in its home state of California, as well as Michigan and other locations that it declined to reveal.
Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State, said three additional companies have requested plates for autonomous vehicle testing: auto supplier Dura; technology company Quantum Signal, and the University of Michigan. Many other companies, such as Ford Motor Co., have plates and use them for autonomous testing, among other tests.
There are tens of thousands of manufacturer plates issued in Michigan and the state doesn’t have a breakdown or require any separate registration for companies that are testing autonomous vehicles here. The state also allows cars with manufacturer plates issued from other states to test in Michigan.
Faraday Future in April broke ground on a $1 billion, 3-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas. Officials there said the goal was to complete a four-year build process in half the time, but an exact opening date was not given.
The company received a $335 million incentive package from the state of Nevada that includes protections that acknowledge the company’s short history. Faraday won’t be able to tap into all of its abatements until it meets a $1 billion investment threshold.
Faraday Future has no working prototype car, and a representative told The News that it can’t confirm a timeline for introducing one. But Nick Sampson, senior vice president of research and development, told Business Insider after the North Vegas plant groundbreaking that “we’re testing both mechanical and software systems, and before the end of this year, we’ll have full prototypes that represent our production cars.”
The company in January unveiled its FFZERO1 concept car, a futuristic, 1,000-horsepower electric vehicle that can accelerate from zero to 60 in under three seconds and will have the capability for full autonomy.
Melissa Burden contributed.