Michigan officials are banking on a partnership with the Michigan International Speedway to create as many as 40,000 jobs over the next couple of decades and make the state a global leader in vehicle connectivity technology.
MIS is offering its facilities to test technology that would allow cars to talk to the road and to each other so they become incapable of crashing into one another, saving up to 44,000 U.S. deaths annually (1,000 a year in Michigan) from auto accidents, as well as reducing traffic congestion, MDOT officials said.
“Making Michigan the center of research and development in vehicle connectivity and intelligent highways could create 10,000 to 40,000 high-tech jobs at automakers and suppliers of electronics, sensors and radio frequency equipment, and build on the area’s auto expertise, said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.
The first 1,000 jobs could come in the first year or two, he said, as Michigan becomes the hub for this growing field. The figures draw from a study by Michigan State University and CAR that said any state that can pull together a fully functioning “lab to assembly line” system with connected vehicle technology will create 16,000 to 41,000 high-tech jobs and contribute $177 million and $448 million in state income tax revenue.
The idea is that all cars in the future will have onboard devices to detect vehicles around them as well as an upcoming red light or stop sign, creating a network of vehicles that refuse to crash, said Greg Krueger, program manager for MDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System office in Lansing.
In addition to creating a safety network, vehicles that communicate should improve traffic flow and fuel efficiency with fewer stops and slowdowns, officials said.
Vehicle connectivity is an area automakers, suppliers and the aftermarket industry are already working on globally and testing within their respective facilities. The technology exists, and the Federal Communications Commission has dedicated a secure WiFi frequency for vehicle communication, but what does not exist is a neutral testing site that anyone can access, Krueger said.
Adding the Brooklyn-based Speedway, which is known for NASCAR events, provides a closed-track testing facility. It also offers a neutral place for competing automakers to test if their models can talk to one another, Krueger said.
Companies can create and test technology in their own labs, then move it to the Speedway and finally to public roads such as the stretch of Telegraph Road where MDOT has sensors at about 30 intersections for testing. Ford Motor Co. has put WiFi chips at intersections in Dearborn to test its system with pilot vehicles.
Speedway President Roger Curtis said at least two unidentified companies plan to begin testing at the racetrack this spring, and two more could join by summer.
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