Michigan unveils plan to design self-driving vehicle roadway between Detroit and Ann Arbor

Michigan’s first roadway designed for self-driving vehicles is in phase one of design, as industry officials are working with the state of Michigan to develop a 40-mile autonomous corridor between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the project in Detroit on Thursday, Aug. 13, along with Jonathan Winer, whose new company Cavnue has been chosen to lead the project.

“In the very near future – not in some science fiction fantasy, but on the ground in Michigan – today’s connected vehicles can operate in corridors that are digitally mapped and outfitted with communications technologies,” Winer said.

Ford, the University of Michigan, the American Center for Mobility and the state’s new Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification are among the partners on the project.

Thursday’s announcement launches a two-year feasibility study focusing on technology and design for the future roadway. No cost terms were announced, as financing models will be explored during the study.

The idea is to construct designated lanes for self-driving vehicles between Detroit and Ann Arbor along I-94 and Michigan Avenue. Smart technology would be built along the path, including road sensors to detect traffic, weather and road conditions.

Infrastructure would allow the driverless vehicles to communicate with each other.

If successful, the project would help give more people access to transportation, cut down on traffic and emissions, make travel faster and reduce the number of crashes on the road. Whitmer said it can become “the world’s most sophisticated roadway.”

“We want to make it clear – Michigan is the undisputed leader in the nation’s automotive landscape,” Whitmer said. “Whether that is building cars, improving infrastructure or creating an ecosystem to solve the biggest challenges in future mobility.”

Cavnue will work to develop new technology standards with the state. The advisory committee for the project includes leaders from Ford, General Motors, BMW, Honda and Toyota. Technology will be developed to allow all manufacturers to take advantage of the system.

At the start, the lanes would be used for connected buses and shared mobility vehicles like vans and shuttles, per a news release. It would later expand to self-driving freight and autonomous personal vehicles.

The plan is to link up key destinations, including the University of Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and Michigan Central Station.

“When you start putting self-driving cars on the road, are you going to mix them on the street with people driving themselves? Probably not,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “You probably need to have dedicated lanes. And those vehicles have to talk to each other in order to keep appropriate distance.”

To see a video of the concept, click here. To read more about Cavnue’s plan and timeline, click here.


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