US state synonymous with auto industry looks to drive innovation

World Today

The US state of Michigan is synonymous with the auto industry.

Following the development of the first assembly car over a century ago, Michigan remains a key hub for car manufacturers. And despite facing a number of challenges, Michigan hopes to remain a vital part of the industry for years to come.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

The track allows companies and organizations the chance to test autonomous vehicles and includes a four-kilometer highway loop.  Mark Chaput is the Vice President of Construction and Infrastructure Development for ACM.

“We are an enabling facility to allow the product development and validation of connected and automated vehicle technologies. We are one of the largest facilities in the world. We feel we offer a lot of the test environments that are not available in other locations.”

Detroit is known as ‘Motor City’. Photo by Dan Williams.

The American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, is a 200-hectare test track facility.  This was originally the site of a factory where World War II B-24 bombers were  built by Henry Ford. Now though, the focus here is on the future of transportation. 

Another autonomous vehicle testing facility, Mcity, is located nearby at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Photo by Dan Williams.

PlanetM is a Michigan state government-run organization that aims to bring together mobility organizations, educational institutions, start-ups, and government agencies. Sean Phillips is PlanetM’s Director.

“Essentially, you can see us as the connector. So for any company that is around and focused on mobility, we look to make the proper connections and to coordinate our assets as best as possible. We are saving them time on who they have to connect with and essentially we are accelerating innovation.”

Mcity is an autonomous vehicle testing center at the University of Michigan. Photo by Dan Williams.

Some autonomous innovation is already on the roads. May Mobility is a self-driving, six-passenger electric vehicle that runs on a one-and-a-half  kilometer long loop and has replaced diesel buses. For now, a driver remains in the front seat to take control when necessary.

May Mobility is an autonomous vehicle operation in Detroit. Photo by Dan Williams.

Michigan is already looking at ways to push its knowledge beyond state borders.  Last year, a partnership with Ontario saw two cars drive a six-hour route, starting in Detroit, crossing into Canada before returning to Michigan.

“We take the work that we are doing here in the connected and automated vehicle space and share that with folks in Canada to say how do we collaborate.” Says Michele Mueller of the Michigan Department of Transport.

“Safety can’t stop at the borders. Safety has to continue forward. So we do a lot of work with them around the regulations, the safety aspects, and really carry that through the border and working to carry people and freight more effectively and efficiently.”

Michigan has long been a hub for the automotive industry and despite the challenge of technology, it hopes to continue on that road well into the future.