Self-driving cars to test in Detroit-Windsor Tunnel

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Two self-driving cars will make their way Monday through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel under the Detroit River as part of a partnership between Detroit and Windsor.

Neal Belitsky, president and CEO of the tunnel, said Friday that the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel has partnered with the Michigan Department of Transportation and volunteered to be a site for self-driving vehicle tests. The tunnel is jointly owned by the two cities.

While nationally there are tests of self-driving cars on open roadways and highways, “There’s very little testing doing three things: One is getting through toll plazas, the second is going through an underwater tunnel and the third is how do you handle the whole situation with crossing a border and getting through customs and immigration,” he said.

Belitsky said the tunnel was a “logical site to address all three of those.”

He said a number of preliminary tests have been held, and the one slated for Monday “is the real deal.”

A news advisory from the Canadian government says new technology with self-driving cars crossing the U.S.-Canada border will be shown at 8 a.m. Monday on the Windsor side of the tunnel. Navdeep Bains, the Canadian minister of innovation, science and economic development, will attend and showcase the technology.

The Windsor Star reported that two “advanced self-driving vehicles — a Chrysler and a Cadillac” would cross the Detroit River through the tunnel and end their trip in Traverse City.

Acme, near Traverse City, is the site of the annual Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, which kicks off Monday.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, in a video of a Friday news conference posted to the city of Windsor’s YouTube page, said he and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have met to talk about autonomous vehicles and how “both cities could capitalize on our geography located on an international border with a history of cooperation.”

“We believe that identifying and helping to find solutions to the challenges associated with the autonomous vehicle crossing at an international border is a natural fit,” Dilkens said.

He said they have helped work to identify issues and have partnered with private companies on solutions.

“This is a very complex issue, so we’re really interested in learning how we make this work so that this is not a pinch point between our countries when this technology is ready to be launched,” Mark de la Vergne, the city of Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation, said in the video.

In a statement from the city, de la Vergne said the city is looking forward to “seeing the results of this test and working closely with our partners on future innovative endeavors at the tunnel.”

More than 7,000 people a day cross the border for their jobs and thousands more for other reasons, Dilkens said.

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