GM opens $14M active-safety test area in Milford

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Milford Township — General Motors Co. has a new $14 million test area for active-safety systems at its Milford Proving Ground that will help the carmaker quicken development of advanced safety features, including self-driving vehicle technology.

GM’s Mark Reuss, head of global product development, said the facility will help GM achieve its goal for being tops in automotive safety leadership. GM is focused on zero defects, he said.

“We want our brands to be the first brands customers think of when they think about safety and buying a new vehicle,” Reuss said.

More than a year ago, rocked by a deadly ignition switch recall crisis, GM transformed its safety culture, recall practices and safety and engineering organizations.

The Detroit-based automaker will deploy 22 active safety technologies on 2016 model-year vehicles. One is automated braking that will alert a driver, and try to stop the car before a front-end crash at typical city speeds. Another is a system that will alert a driver and automatically apply the brakes if a driver fails to see a pedestrian in front of the vehicle.

Both of those features use cameras to identify the pedestrian or upcoming potential collision. The systems — with some additional features such as lane-departure warning — are available for about $400, said John Capp, GM’s director of global safety strategy and vehicle programs.

The pedestrian braking system will be available on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CT6. It will fully stop a vehicle going up to 20 miles per hour from hitting a pedestrian and at higher speeds will help mitigate the severity of a crash.

The suites of active safety technologies will be deployed across GM’s Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles, from the Chevrolet Spark minicar to the luxury CT6 sedan.

The 52-acre area includes an observation building with a robotic control station, 16-acre area for testing automated vehicles and robot-controlled vehicles, tunnel simulator, area for highway simulations and areas for parking and pedestrian tests.

GM said the new area, which it has been using somewhat since last summer, will help it to test vehicle-to-vehicle technology, or communication that will allow cars to “talk” to each other and share speed, location and braking information. GM will have vehicle-to-vehicle technology standard on the 2017 Cadillac CTS.

Jeff Boyer, vice president of global vehicle safety, said vehicle-to-vehicle technology could have helped warn drivers behind the initial crash on Interstate 94 in western Michigan this January that eventually involved some 190 vehicles.

GM also is developing what it calls Super Cruise, an advanced driver-assist technology that will allow a vehicle to drive itself on highways at full speed or in stop-and-go traffic. It is set to debut on a different 2017 Cadillac that Reuss says is already testing on roadways.