Ford to work on autonomous cars in new UM lab

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will move more than 100 engineers to a new University of Michigan robotics lab at the end of the decade to collaborate on driverless car research.

Ford is providing an undisclosed amount to add a fourth floor at the lab to house its facilities; the UM Board of Trustees approved the design Thursday. The facility – which now will have 140,000 square feet and cost $75 million – was announced by the university earlier this year.

The planned robotics laboratory will have space where machines walk, fly, drive and swim. The building will house labs, offices and classrooms, the automaker said.

Ford and UM also announced professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan will lead a new autonomous vehicle research team made up of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers. The collaboration on autonomous car research is part of Ford’s decade-long research alliance with the Ann Arbor university.

“Ford engineers and researchers will begin working shoulder-to-shoulder with UM faculty and students to test and learn about autonomous vehicle technology and innovation,” Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are aiming to show the world what we can achieve when leaders in business and academia work together to make people’s lives better.”

“Ford is the University of Michigan’s deepest and most engaged industry partner,” said Prof. Alec Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “As leaders in the fields of robotics and transportation, we’re excited to grow our partnership at a time – and place – in which these sectors are converging.”

The building’s construction is expected to be completed by winter 2020, UM said. Ford will open an office by the end of this year in the university’s north campus research complex for about 12 employees, the automaker said.

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