The tunnel at ACM is valuable for testing edge cases for vehicle cameras, as well as sensor reflectivity and fog-and-rain condition testing. (ACM)

America’s latest AV testing site adds cloud provider

The newly operational American Center for Mobility (ACM), designed for all-weather testing of connected and autonomous vehicles, will use Microsoft as its data infrastructure and cloud resources provider.

“We are the first test facility for automated vehicles to partner with a global-scale cloud provider,” explained John Maddox, President and CEO of the 500-acre (202-ha) facility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Maddox and other industry, academia, and government officials spoke with Automotive Engineering recently during ACM’s official grand opening.

AV testing and validation at ACM involves a loop of activity with cameras, radar and lidar sensors collecting data that is interpreted via machine learning algorithms to provide vehicle control.

“That loop gets run both in the car and in the cloud,” said Kevin Dallas, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Cloud Business Development Group, who attended the ACM opening. He noted that a fleet of autonomously driven vehicles will generate petabytes of data. “That’s why you need a cloud to do the deep neural nets, the deep learning,” he said.

A cloud-based Data Management and Analytics Platform will handle the enormous amounts of data being transmitted, processed, and analyzed. “Microsoft is going to be an incredible partner to develop a brand-new suite of tools in the cloud for automated vehicles,” Maddox said.

Microsoft is the latest to join a growing list of ACM partners, including founders AT&T, Visteon Corp., Toyota, Ford Motor Co., and Hyundai America Technical Center. Subaru of America and Adient are ACM sponsors, and Intertek is operations partner.

Recently completed Phase One assets at the site include a 2.5-mi (4-km) highway loop with exit and entrance ramps, three bridges, and a tunnel. “The tunnel is a very important piece because it exercises edge cases for cameras,” explained Maddox. He noted the tunnel interior can switch from light to dark very rapidly, and it’s also a prime locale for technology-created fog or rain conditions.

Phase Two work will include the construction of garages for long-term rentals and a 6-lane by 6-lane traffic intersection with pedestrian crosswalks

Carrie Morton, Deputy Director of Mcity, a 32-acre (13-ha) autonomous vehicle testing environment on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus, said Mcity and ACM are complimentary facilities. “You can do early stage R&D at Mcity, then as you get further into product verification and validation, you can do that on a grand scale at ACM,” she said.

Randy Visintainer, Director of Autonomous Vehicles and Controls at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said that a dedicated autonomous vehicle testing site is important. “In one area you have a lot of scenarios that you can evaluate very efficiently,” he told AE.

Development of ACM has been funded through $50 million in private investments and $65 million from the state of Michigan. Before its extensive redevelopment into ACM, the site was formerly a General Motors manufacturing complex and prior to that, the famous Willow Run Ford plant that built B-24 Liberator bombers during WWII.

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