Peters pitches Mich. as self-driving ‘proving ground’

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is pushing federal regulators to designate a mobility center that is under development in Ypsilanti Township as a “proving ground” for self-driving cars.

The U.S. Department of Transportation through Dec. 19 is accepting through applications for facilities that want to be designated as “qualified proving grounds for the safe testing, demonstration and deployment of automated vehicle technology.” Facilities have to open for testing by Jan. 1, 2018, to be considered for the designation.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said the American Center for Mobility that is being built on the 355-acre Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township should be a top contender for the designation.

“The American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti will soon offer a large-scale facility for partners in academia, government and the private sector to come together to validate advanced vehicle technologies, and I believe this facility is a top contender to be designated as a national proving ground,” the junior Michigan senator said in a statement.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new mobility center was held last week. Peters attended along with Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.

The transportation department says “test tracks or testing facilities, race tracks, cities or urban cores, highway corridors and campuses (corporate or academic)” are eligible to receive the designation under a new pilot program that is being implemented.

John Maddox, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility, said such a designation “is a critical step in accelerating the development of this technology and will help keep the U.S. at the forefront.

“We believe the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run is well positioned to be a nationally designated facility, given its focus on safety, education and convening public, private and academia groups to continue to collaborate on setting standards for (connected and autonomous vehicles) and safe deployment,” he said in a statement provided to The Detroit News. “In addition, our location at Willow Run is at the epicenter of the automotive industry with an incredible amount of expertise and activity already well-established here in Southeast Michigan.”

The search for proving grounds for self-driving cars comes as federal regulators are moving to implement new guidelines for autonomous cars.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the new guidelines for self-driving car testing and upcoming designation of proving grounds are evidence his department has leaned into “innovations that will transform transportation as we know it.”

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