DETROIT — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week that the state is undertaking an initiative to develop a first-of-its-kind corridor for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) designed to improve transportation for communities in Southeast Michigan. The corridor, devoted to both passenger and commercial CAVs, would connect Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with key communities and destinations along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94 in Wayne County and Washtenaw County.
The vision for the corridor is to create lanes that will accelerate and enhance the full potential of CAVs and move people. At its core, the project is designed to be “future proofed” and evolve to meet transportation goals, beginning with connected buses and shared mobility vehicles such as vans and shuttles, and expanding to additional types of CAVs, such as freight and personal vehicles.
According to a statement from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the corridor will build on existing investments made by the state of Michigan and local communities in smart infrastructure and transit, and will link key destinations including the University of Michigan, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Michigan Central Station. The corridor will also include up to a dozen “opportunity zones,” where expanded mobility will connect individuals, small businesses and communities to Southeast Michigan’s industrial, technological and academic clusters.
“The action we’re taking today is good for our families, our businesses, and our economy as a whole. Here in Michigan, the state that put the world on wheels, we are taking the initial steps to build the infrastructure to help us test and deploy the cars of the future,” Whitmer said on Aug. 13. “As we rebuild our roads to ensure every Michigander can drive to work and drop their kids at school safely, we will also continue working to build smart infrastructure to help prepare us for the roads of tomorrow. In Michigan, where the health of our workers and our economy are directly tied to the health of our auto industry, we will continue this innovative work to secure our state’s position as the automotive capital of the world.”
Cavnue, a subsidiary of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), has been selected by the state to serve as master developer of the corridor project. The public-private partnership will explore the opportunity and viability of the project in cooperation with state and local partners, stakeholders and communities across the planned corridor route.
Cavnue will work with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) and industry and local project partners throughout Phase 1 of the effort, which is expected to last approximately 24 months and will include feasibility analysis of the proposed project.
With the help of regional partners, Cavnue hopes to plan, design and develop the world’s most sophisticated roadway, combining innovations in physical, digital, coordination and operational infrastructure to help increase the safety, efficiency, resilience and operations of roadways, and improve the mobility experience for users by enabling a faster and more coordinated dedicated autonomous mobility corridor.
The project will advance key policy goals, including improving safety; achieving neutrality among vehicle OEMs through standards-based approaches; enhancing accessibility, affordability, and equity; and aligning with regional planning. Throughout the planning and development process, stakeholders will carefully evaluate potential impacts on the transportation workforce and ensure that it supports good-paying jobs.
“As a company focused on the future of infrastructure, we are thrilled to launch Cavnue to build the future of roads, and partner with Michigan and the communities along the corridor on a first-of-its-kind CAV corridor,” said Jonathan Winer, co-founder and co-CEO of SIP.
During the feasibility analysis in Phase 1, work will focus on technology testing and roadway design, as well as exploring different financing models to determine the project’s viability from both a technological and business perspective. Subsequent construction and implementation would be part of future phases of the project, to be determined following the initial 24-month period.
“The time has come to start to integrate all of the momentum happening on the vehicle technology side with an equally strong push for innovation on our road assets themselves,” said Brian Barlow, co-founder and co-CEO of SIP. “We believe that combining technology and physical infrastructure can help unlock the full potential of CAVs and fundamentally transform mobility to improve safety, congestion, and public transit.”
Cavnue will develop OEM-neutral standards and technology for the implementation of the corridor and permit connected and autonomous vehicles meeting specified safety and other standards to operate on the corridor regardless of the vehicle manufacturer. In developing OEM-neutral standards for the implementation of the corridor, Cavnue will draw on an advisory committee of automotive and autonomous mobility companies, including Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Ford, GM, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo.