One of the nation's biggest testing grounds for self-driving cars held its grand opening Wednesday.
The American Center for Mobility near Ypsilanti puts the historic Willow Run site to a new and important use. 500 acres surrounding GM's former transmission plant will feature miles of roads to test autonomous cars in all kinds of circumstances and weather.
The plant, which played a key role during WWII building B-24 bombers, closed in 2010 during the Great Recession. U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell told the assembled crowd the plant's closure was during very hard times for the auto industry in Michigan. "And now today, it's the future," Dingell said. "Today is the day we are saying Michigan is remaining at the forefront of innovation and change."
Dingell says automated cars are clearly the future. But there are still big problems to be solved, to prevent incidents like the recent death of a pedestrian who was struck by an automated Uber car in Arizona.
"Let's be honest, the Uber accident last week has made people concerned," Dingell said. "That's why we need this test site."
Uber has taken its self-driving fleet off public roads, but other fleets remain in public testing. GM began testing self-driving electric Bolts last year in Wayne County.