The state of Michigan has partnered with Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners and its subsidiary, Cavnue, to build dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
The project was announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials on August 13th at an old railway station currently renovated by Ford. The American manufacturer, which is one of the nine automotive companies on the advisory board, intends to use the renovated station as a home base to produce its future autonomous vehicles.
Many other iconic companies will support this project. For instance, Alphabet Inc., which is Google‘s parent company, intends to create a similar technology for larger metropolitan cities.
According to various reports, the project is expected to start within the next two years. Authorities are currently evaluating whether it would be better to construct new lanes or convert the existing lanes instead. In all cases, we can be sure of one thing: nothing of this sort has ever been attempted in the country before.
Co-CEO of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Jonathan Winer, noted that the lanes would first be used by autonomous buses and gradually grow into running on a separate lane, divided by a barrier from the normal ones. After a first test period, there would be an addition of smaller shuttles, smaller self-driving freight trucks, until a point where personal autonomous cars would be incorporated.
A central computer system would be linked to every single vehicle to help coordinate their speed and movement, enabling them to move with ease and faster than conventional cars whose speed is often obstructed by traffic.
According to some reports gathered from Chinese media, the world’s second-largest economy is also interested in this project, which will probably start on a freeway in China. Several other states in the U.S have also proposed this idea, but the first one will take place in Michigan.
If the project turns out to be successful, it should enhance the popularity of the autonomous vehicle industry, which almost came to a halt after an Uber autonomous car, still in its testing phase, killed a woman.
Walker Smith, a law professor studying vehicle automation, said that it is still unpredictable how these vehicles will perform in the real world. However, if this particular technology becomes successful, there is indeed a vast market waiting to be explored.
A prototype freeway will be built for the initial testing phase and will be used to find a solution to avoid the entrance of wildlife as well as humans in these dedicated lanes.
If you’d like to learn more about Cavnue’s response to Michigan’s request for proposal, take a look at the complete document here!