Ford Motor Co. plans to give $5 million to the American Center for Mobility, marking the second sponsorship from an automaker to the self-driving research site at Ypsilanti’s Willow Run.
Toyota Motor North American donated $5 million in July. Ford’s sponsorship brings the fundraising total to $95 million, about $15 million short of the goal. When the nonprofit launched, CEO John Maddox and company estimated they needed $80 million to fully outfit the test facility.
“We couldn’t be more proud to have Ford Motor Company join the ranks as a Founder,” Maddox said in a news release. “When we first announced our plan to develop the American Center for Mobility, it may have seemed a little ambitious to some. However, we’re well along in making this a reality as national and global partners continue to support the facility.”
Maddox intends to outfit with tunnels, bridges, traffic stops, city streets and other simulations to test driverless vehicles. The first phase of the 500-acre facility is expected to open in December.
Federal and state officials have said that he project is vital to keeping the U.S. competitive in the future of automotive innovation. In April, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved $15 million in state funding. The state of Michigan had previously pledged $20 million in aid for the American Center for Mobility.
The U.S. Department of Transportation in January designated 10 proving grounds for developing and testing self-driving cars, including Willow Run — site of the bomber plant Henry Ford built in the early days of World War II that came to symbolize the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
For rivals Ford and Toyota, the donations speak to the more collaborative nature of mobility — particularly when it comes to devising common traffic management systems that can connect to myriad autonomous models likely to come in the future.
“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 peoples’ lives.”
AT&T was the first corporate sponsor of the American Center for Mobilty. In January, it announced it would contribute an undisclosed amount to the center.