Thursday, August 20, 2020

Futuristic driverless route set for Michigan Avenue

A Cavnue concept rendering of the new
Michigan Connected Corridor vehicles.
It will take several years to complete, but if all goes as planned, there will be driverless vehicles traveling in a dedicated lane down Michigan Avenue connecting Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit.
The proposed route will travel through Canton Township, the City of Wayne and Inkster, with proposed stops along the route at the University of Michigan Dearborn and Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus. Developers said that plans would allow passengers to summon connected or autonomous vehicles and know their pickup and arrival time on the route. Speakers said the project has the potential to make transit more accessible and equitable.
The plan was announced last week during a joint press conference with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Jonathan Winer, co-CEO of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, the lead developer of the project.

Passengers could summon the new
driverless vehicles in the corridor.
While driverless vehicles traveling current roadways are a futuristic concept, officials said, the cars can currently travel on digitally-mapped roads with connected infrastructure. Planning and mapping of that digitally connected route is expected to take two years before any construction on the dedicated roadway begins. The developer said the company plans to build a mile of pilot roadway at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti sometime during the next year. The roadway, called the Michigan Connected Corridor, would be publicly accessible and could feature both public transit and shared mobility options. It will be called the “Michigan Connected Corridor,” officials confirmed, sharpening a vision Ford shared when it acquired the historic train station two years ago.
Officials, including Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, were enthusiastic about the project and said it was “the next chapter in Michigan's long history of leading innovation in the auto industry.”
“Detroit's a brand, It means mobility. When Detroit does well, we all do well,” Dingell said. “Just because we have (COVID-19), China is not stopping. India is not stopping. Western Europe is not stopping. And today we're telling you, we're not stopping.”
Duggan, too, was enthusiastic about the Michigan Avenue route and said, “That road belongs on Michigan Avenue.”
Duggan pointed to recent investments in Detroit in electric and autonomous vehicle development by Google self-driving affiliate Waymo LLC, by Ford, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and by General Motors Co.
The project is being led by Cavnue, a subsidiary of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, an affiliate of Google parent Alphabet Inc. SIP “builds, owns, operates and invests in both advanced infrastructure projects and technology companies with innovations that enable and apply to those projects,” according to its website. Cavnue, which was selected by the state following a competitive bidding process, would provide up-front financing and would then seek to recoup that investment under a revenue-sharing structure.  Other partners in the development include Ford Motor Co., The Michigan Department of Transportation, the American Center for Mobility and the University of Michigan. Along with Ford, General Motors Co., Argo AI, Arrival, BMW AG, Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., TuSimple and Waymo LLC representatives will comprise an advisory committee to help develop standards that don't favor one automaker over another.
Ford is in the middle of a $750 million renovation of the Michigan Central Depot and surrounding buildings in the Corktown neighborhood and this project was part of the initial discussions and negotiations regarding that project.