A 40-mile road will be built between Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit for autonomous vehicles, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office announced in a press release Thursday.

The “first-of-its-kind” road will connect locations along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94 such as the University of Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Michigan Central Station. It is designed “to improve transportation for communities in Southeast Michigan,” the press release said.

Whitmer ran for office on the slogan “Fix the Damn Roads” and promised to invest in the state’s infrastructure. The new roadway would help secure Michigan’s position as “the automotive capital of the world,” she said in the press release. 

“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,” Whitmer said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also said the project “continues to reinforce that the future of mobility will be designed and built in Detroit and Southeast Michigan.”

The project, dubbed “the future of roads,” is intended to support cars known as connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), though more traditional vehicles will also share the new roadway. 

Connected vehicles are any vehicles that use technologies to communicate with other cars on the road or other networks and devices outside the car. GPS technology and General Motors’s OnStar call center are examples of connected cars.

Autonomous vehicles are cars that do not require a driver’s input to steer, accelerate or brake. Put together in one car, connected and autonomous vehicles would use external input to navigate self-driving. 

The state picked the transportation company Cavnue as the master developer for the project. Exploring the technology, design and business questions of the new roadway will be the first phase of the initiative, which will last 24 months. 

The lanes for autonomous and connected vehicles would likely be carved out of existing roads. While traditional cars, self-driving vehicles and public transit like buses would travel on the same roads, they might not necessarily use the same lanes along the corridor.

The press release did not specify where funding for the project will come from. 

Alec Gallimore, dean of engineering at the University, called the new road “so much more than a road.”

“It will serve as a pathway to sustainability, to safer mobility and to prosperity for underserved populations and for the state of Michigan as a whole,” Gallimore said. “… We are proud to be part of it.”

Daily News Editor Claire Hao can be reached at cmhao@umich.edu.


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