Flint will have a role in autonomous vehicle development

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FLINT (WJRT) - (01/04/17) - Tuesday's announcement that Ford plans to build self-driving cars at its Flat Rock plant south of Detroit is good news for the state.

Test facilities, like those being created at Kettering University in Flint, will mean autonomous vehicle development will be centered in southeast Michigan.

Kettering took over 21 acres in Flint where GM's Chevy in the Hole operated for decades. Businesses interested in self-driving car technology will be going there to test their ideas.

Last October, Phase One, a 3.5 acre test pad, opened where faculty, students and corporate sponsors will be able to work on autonomous vehicles. It's called the GM Mobility Research Center.

"And it really positions Flint in a very meaningful way at the center of a lot of this development activity," said Dr. Robert K. McMahan, Kettering University president.

In the spring, work will begin on a road course on the property, which will allow self-driving cars to be tested in a variety of situations. The entire site has state-of-the-art wireless technology so the cars will be able to talk to each other.

"We already have a large number of companies coming to us, asking, 'Can we use these facilities to do this testing?'" McMahan said.

Companies interested in self-driving cars could build offices along Bluff Street and Glenwood Avenue.

"We would expect as they start to use this facility more and more that they would want to place offices here in the area around the university," McMahan said.

With the University of Michigan building a test facility called M-City in Ann Arbor, and the state creating a site near Ypsilanti, this area of Michigan will be Ground Zero for autonomous vehicle production.

"It's very exciting because we have the opportunity to be once again as a city at the forefront of the development of this next generation technology," McMahan said.

It's entirely possible in a year or two you could see self-driving cars leaving the Kettering campus and heading out for a trip along I-69.

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