DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 13: A general view of the abandoned Michigan Central train station on August 13, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Ford Motor Company's purchase and proposed renovation of Detroit's leading eyesore – the abandoned Michigan Central Train Station – promises to lend momentum to a city on the comeback trail, as well as to a vehicle company at an existential crossroads. Bill Ford Jr. says the real estate venture is about "inventing the future," creating an urban home for the automaker's mobility services business and the electrification of its vehicles, two prominent trends that promise to transform the way ordinary citizens think about their cars and their daily travel. The four-year project promises to be costly, according to initial reports, while attracting talent (read: young talent otherwise headed for Silicon Valley) to Ford and to Detroit, suddenly a cool place to live, work and play for many. Many young software engineers and artificial intelligence jocks dream of working for Elon Musk and Tesla: Ford wants to make a bid for them.
Toyota is ready to expand work on its self-driving platform. Next up: The automaker will run its cars through the ringer on a private AV test course known for tough conditions. The Japanese company's autonomous R&D wing, Toyota Research Institute (TRI), just signed an agreement to conduct research testing at GoMentum Station. The 5,000-acre "autonomous vehicle proving ground" in California will give Toyota a track to experiment with its new Platform 2.1 autonomous system, which the automaker first showed off last month. The GoMentum facility features setups that create "extreme driving events" that Toyota has deemed too unsafe to test elsewhere, as well as realistic infrastructure like bridges, intersections, and parking lots.
France could be the first country to have fully autonomous cars on the road next year. The Associated Press reported that French companies Delphi and Transdev will partner to create taxi and shuttle services that transport passengers without a driver. The testing will start with on-demand driverless vehicles in Normandy and a van service that will shuttle passengers between a train station and the campus of the University of Paris Saclay. The route between the campus and train station is aimed at addressing a "first mile-last mile" gap in public transportation, getting people from their final destinations and start points to public transit. The services will begin with humans on board to give instruction before the planned fully autonomous phase in 2018.
Ford Motor Co. is celebrating its purchase of Detroit's long vacant train depot that the company plans to redevelop for research and development of self-driving vehicles. The company's executive chairman, Bill Ford, has used the Michigan Central depot as a backdrop while publicly laying out plans for the 105-year-old train station and surrounding neighborhood. On Tuesday, the automaker held a public event outside the 500,000-square-foot (46,450-square-meter) building. Bill Ford said Tuesday that the company is reimagining mobility and "making a big bet on" its future with the investments. He says the depot and 17-story office tower will be redeveloped over the next four years.
This former town within a Naval base -- now dubbed "GoMentum Station" -- works to Honda's advantage. It's a nearly turn-key solution to the problem of finding somewhere to test an autonomous vehicle inside an urban area. The automaker has access to 20 miles of various road types, intersections and the infrastructure it would encounter in the real world. Just, you know, without all the people getting in the way. While the faded lane markers and cracked asphalt might make it difficult for the car to figure out what's going on around it, that's exactly what you want when training a self-driving system.