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Driverless Auto Testing Heats Up at State and Global Levels

Driverless Auto Testing Heats Up at State and Global Levels

By Philly Murtha, February 25, 2016
Michigan and California are vying for part of $4 billion in federal funding to develop autonomous cars, proposed this year by President Obama, according to media reports. Congress still has to approve the package, but both states have developed test track projects and more than a dozen automakers may want to test their driverless cars at these sites soon.

Bloomberg News reports that one project is run by California’s Contra Costa Transportation Authority. The GoMentum Station 2,100-acre site, which was a munitions storage facility during World War II, features 20 miles of winding roads. Honda Motor Co. already is a customer. Google, Apple, and Tesla also could be interested in using the site since it is 39 miles from Silicon Valley.

Halfway across the country, in Michigan, the Willow Run vehicle assembly plant, once the site of a Ford B-24 bomber plant, and later part of General Motors, features a triple-level overpass and unused highway lanes where test vehicles can travel around tight corners, over bridges, and through tunnels. Backers point out that testing vehicles in snow, ice, and on rough roads with potholes is a research advantage. Additionally, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor hopes that Willow Run and its Mcity urban test area could become the top advanced automotive testing grounds in the world, Crain’s Detroit Business reports.

Meanwhile, other self-driving vehicle projects are gaining momentum. TomTom, Dutch navigation systems maker, is releasing 3D automated driving maps in the United States to help self-driving vehicles navigate beyond sensor range. Also, TomTom has teamed up with Uber ride-sharing service to conduct driverless car research at Carnegie Mellon’s robotics institute. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi jointly may buy a German 3D digital mapmaker from Nokia for their autonomous car tests.

In Japan, Nissan is evaluating its autonomous Leaf prototype on streets, Tech Insider reports, while BMW is working with China’s Baidu on a self-driving car for the Chinese market. In the United States, self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids are being tested on California, Michigan, and Arizona roads, while a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Volts cruises around GM’s Detroit technical center grounds.

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