11 companies invest $11M at Mcity car test site

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
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A swath of companies, including Detroit automakers Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., are investing a total of $11 million in the latest round of funding for self-driving car test-center Mcity.

Ford and GM — joined by Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. — are among the 11 companies joining Mcity’s Leadership Circle that each have promised to invest a total of $1 million over the next three years in the autonomous vehicle proving ground at the University of Michigan.

Suppliers Delphi Automotive PLC and Denso are also kicking in, but it’s not just the automotive industry investing in Mcity.

Other companies participating in the second round of funding include Verizon Communications Inc., LG, Intel Corp., State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Econolite Group Inc., which provides traffic management systems.

Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto unit, said the cross-industry investments represent a growing trend of collaboration in the development of autonomous vehicle technology.

“There is a convergence of auto and tech going on — and it’s accelerating,” Stevens said. “These companies have to be learning together.”

Tuesday’s investments in the Ann Arbor site come a week after Hyundai announced a $5 million investment in Ypsilanti’s American Center for Mobility, matching earlier investments from Ford and Toyota at the facility.

Mcity and ACM at the Willow Run site in Ypsilanti — 23-acre and 500-acre facilities, respectively — “really complement each other,” Stevens said. “We need Mcity and we need ACM.”

The total investment at Mcity and the UM Transportation Research Institute in connected and automated vehicle research, development and deployment activities will exceed $100 million by 2020, the University of Michigan said in a statement. Those investments come from industry investors, the university and government agencies.

The first three-year Leadership Circle term, which includes a group of 16 investors, runs through the end of 2017.

With 11 companies committed to the second three-year term as of Tuesday, UM spokeswoman Susan Carney says the center expected to add a few more in the coming months.

The testing facility, where students and faculty are researching various aspects of mobility, recently added a traffic control center with augmented reality testing capabilities and implemented connections between vehicles and the traffic infrastructure.

In addition to the small fleet of research vehicles at Mcity, the center is also preparing to launch a driverless shuttle on the university’s North Campus.


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