Visteon Corp. on Monday announced it would be the first Tier 1 automotive supplier to sponsor the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run.
The $5 million investment puts Visteon among automakers Hyundai, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America and AT&T as a founder-level donor to the test facility. It brings the total reported investment in the facility up to roughly $108 million.
John Maddox, president and CEO of the center, has said he’ll need $130 million to fund the first two phases of construction. That amount could change as he and his team think up more things to add to the more than 500-acre test site.
“We are thrilled to have Visteon as a Founder, as they embody the spirit of business collaboration and technical innovation that is our core mission,” Maddox said in a press release. “Partnering with automotive technology leaders, such as Visteon, along with the State of Michigan and other organizations, is instrumental in putting self-driving cars on America’s roads safely.”
Maddox said the first phase of what’s likely to be a multi-phase build-out at the Willow Run site will be ready by December. Construction is more than half done, and will include a highway loop, bridges, tunnels and a number of other simulations that automakers and suppliers might not have at their disposal. Companies and universities will be able to rent garages and portions of the test facility to privately test machines and systems.
Gov. Rick Snyder and President Donald Trump have said the center is an important asset for the state and country to remain competitive in the future of the auto industry. The U.S. Department of Transportation in January designated 10 proving grounds for developing and testing self-driving cars, including Willow Run — site of the bomber plant Henry Ford built in the early days of World War II that came to symbolize the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
Snyder on Monday tweeted about Michigan’s work in connected vehicles, and the importance of infrastructure that vehicles can communicate with to the state’s future as a leader in mobility.
“We are the world leader in #Mobility,” Snyder wrote in a tweet.
In April, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved $15 million in state funding. The state of Michigan had previously pledged $20 million in aid.
Maddox expects to begin a new round of construction in April. He and his team are also designing phase two, which will replicate a large city with buildings like those found in Manhattan, Washington and Detroit.
Meantime, Visteon plans to use the center to develop autonomous driving systems and technology that will allow cars to talk to each other and city infrastructure. The company will also develop sensor technology and security measures there.
Visteon is currently developing its DriveCore technology. That platform is an artificial intelligence-based autonomous driving system the company plans to introduce at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Visteon will test the technology at the American Center for Mobility.
“Working with the Center provides Visteon a unique opportunity to create and test technologies for automated vehicles in a safe and controlled environment that mirrors conditions on roads and highways where these technologies ultimately will be applied,” said Sachin Lawande, Visteon president and CEO, in a statement.
Maddox has said the American Center for Mobility will be constantly expanded as automakers develop their autonomous vehicle platforms and systems. New features will open in “stages” through December 2019.