On its way out the door, the Obama Administration greenlit 10 sites across the United States that will become “proving grounds” for autonomous cars, including one in Michigan and two in California.
The Department of Transport (DoT) announced its picks one day before Obama left office, one of the hundreds of pieces of legislation passed in the last days of the administration.
Willow Run, an old B-24 bomber plant in Michigan, will be the flagship proving ground. The American Center for Mobility is converting the 311-acre site to test autonomous cars from Ford, General Motors, and Hyundai.
The state of Michigan is bankrolling the effort, to the tune of $80 million, in the hope of bringing automotive jobs back to Detroit. It expects the site to pay for itself after a while, through federal grants and possible payments to test vehicles.
What will Trump do?
A decommissioned Naval base in Concord, California, will also be redeveloped for autonomous vehicle tests. Other sites in Arizona and Washington were chosen, but the DoT have not said how much will be spent to convert the sites for autonomous testing.
“The designated proving grounds will collectively form a community of practice around safe testing and deployment,” said ex-U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing.”
The Trump Administration has not said anything about the onset of autonomous cars, but considering his commitment to bringing jobs back to U.S. citizens, the administration could most likely be against any further development of autonomous technology. That could be an issue for the auto and tech firms that have spent millions preparing for the self-driving revolution.