(TNS) -- Toyota will be the first automaker to invest in the American Center for Mobility.
The Japanese automaker's Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Research Institute subsidiaries are contributing $5 million to the self-driving vehicle research center being built in Ypsilanti Township.
Other automakers and suppliers are also expected to use and contribute to the facility, which is now expected to cost $110 million. Maddox called a previous $80 million cost figure a "rough initial estimate" before several amenities were added.
So far, John Maddox, president for the American Center for Mobility, said the center has secured $91 million in public and private funding.
The head of Toyota's research institute, which has an office in Ann Arbor, touted the center's benefits, saying the closed course facility provides a great place to safely test driverless vehicles.
“As we move forward with the development of autonomous cars, we must remember that not all test miles are created equal," Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, said in a statement. "The road to creating a car as safe, or safer, than a human driver will require billions of test miles including simulation, real-world driving on public roads, and closed-course testing where we can expose our systems to extreme circumstances and conditions."
In a phone interview, John Maddox, president for the American Center for Mobility, said Toyota will be able to help the center prioritize what is built there and how programs targeting education, standards and testing are run.
"That’s a huge incentive," Maddox said.
The release noted that "as an ACM contributor,
Toyota will become a member of a government-industry team which supports the American Center for Mobility's efforts, to create a large-scale test environment in Southeast Michigan for autonomous vehicles. Toyota will also get to book the facility for testing further in advance than others, which will be invaluable over the next few years, according to Maddox who noted that Mcity, a self-driving testing facility in Ann Arbor, has expanded its booking opportunities because of strong demand.
“We expect a similar, high usage rate at ACM. In fact, maybe even higher,” Maddox said.
The center, which is expected to open in December, is on a 335-acre site about 30 miles southwest of downtown Detroit that once housed the famed Willow Run bomber plant. It is expected to be a major player in the race to build and test driverless and connected vehicles and has been designated by the federal government as a self-driving proving ground and research hub.
The center's plans calls for a 2 1/2-mile high-speed highway test track; multilane intersections, alleys and traffic circles; a 700-foot curving tunnel; two triple-decker overpasses; a cybersecurity lab; an electrical substation large enough to power a city; and driverless shuttles. Maddox noted that the $110 million price tag will allow for the addition of a bypass for the tunnel and an urban area with two sections, one offering modern, smart-city features and another designed without them because autonomous vehicles would need to travel through both types of environments.
The race to develop safe driverless cars and regulations to govern them is intensifying with legislation approved by a U.S. House committee just last week giving the federal government the final say over self-driving vehicle performance.
©2017 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.