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Willow Run gets new role as self-driving vehicle center

Computer rendering of overpasses at American Center for Mobility.
State of Michigan
Computer rendering of overpasses at American Center for Mobility.

Willow Run is more than 330 acres of crumbling concrete and weeds today. 

But the site of the B-24 bomber assembly plant during World War II will soon be transformed  into miles of roads, highways, overpasses, and nighttime lighting, where the self-driving and connected cars of the future will be developed and tested. 

At the groundbreaking Monday, Governor Rick Snyder said the project will keep Michigan in the driver's seat as the world changes.

"This is about the transformation of the automobile industry to the mobility industry," Snyder said to an assembled crowd of local and state officials. "We are on the forefront of the transformation of society. Not Michigan society. Not American society. But society."

The mobility center has been championed by elected leaders from both parties, including Republicans Snyder and Lt. Governor Brian Calley, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Senator Gary Peters.

The center will be available for use by private industry, government, standards bodies and academia.

It's anticipated that the project will be complete by late 2017.

Most recently, Willow Run was owned by General Motors.  The site was placed into a trust after GM's bankruptcy. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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