Peters, Stabenow & Dingell Announce Grant to Create Ann Arbor SPARK Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Development Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell today announced a $247,170 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support the creation of a Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Development Center in partnership with Ann Arbor SPARK to spur innovation and support creation and commercialization of new connected vehicle technologies.

“This funding is a tremendous opportunity to drive innovation and development of new technologies that will make vehicles safer by reducing the risk of accidents and help relieve traffic congestion,” said Peters. “Along with promoting new research and development, the proposed Willow Run CAV Development Center will create new jobs and ensure that the cars and trucks of the future are being developed and manufactured right here in Michigan.”

“Thanks to the hard work of Ann Arbor SPARK and community leaders, Southeast Michigan continues to be a hub for innovative automotive technologies,” said Stabenow. “This state-of-the-art center will attract electronics and software companies, from startups to established businesses, looking for the right place to test their products. This investment is a critical piece of the Willow Run redevelopment plan and will spur job growth in the region.”

“This grant is extremely important for many reasons – from helping to redevelop the area known for being the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ to ensuring Southeast Michigan continues to lead the way in automotive innovation,” said Dingell. “This grant is a huge step forward in making the first-of-its-kind CAV Development Center a reality. This project will leverage our automotive know-how to attract new industries and jobs, and further establish our region as a hub of research and development for the vehicles of tomorrow. The award is the result of the vision and hard work of public and private partners working together to continue to move this region forward.”

“It’s exciting to be able to continue our work in the redevelopment of Willow Run, which offers tremendous potential in revitalizing eastern Washtenaw County,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “The grant award will enable Ann Arbor SPARK to accelerate our efforts and work with a range of experts who can inform and shape the Willow Run plan. The infrastructure, talent, and rich heritage of automotive innovation is unique to this region, and makes it the only place in the world where such a center can thrive.”

The Ann Arbor SPARK grant will plan for a CAV Center that will serve as a hub for research and development of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies in southeast Michigan, leveraging Michigan’s auto industry to attract electronic, software and systems integration firms to test new technologies. The planned CAV will be housed at the Willow Run Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township.

Connected vehicle technologies like vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications systems have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic accidents and traffic congestion by allowing cars to communicate with one another and recognize dangers beyond what a vehicle’s radar, cameras or other sensors can detect. The CAV Center will also drive the development of fully automated or self-driving vehicles, which could provide unparalleled mobility by directly addressing a factor involved in at least 94 percent of crashes – human error.

Ann Arbor SPARK is an economic development organization dedicated to growing the Ann Arbor region’s economy by attracting new industries and growing local businesses. The grant was awarded as part of the EDA’s Science and Research Park Development Grant program, which helps plan the creation or expansion for centers of innovation.