Chris Gautz
Jackson Citizen Patriot

This summer, cars speeding around Michigan International Speedway won't just be chasing a checkered flag. They'll be testing connected-vehicle technologies that could lead to the attraction of high-paying jobs and businesses to the area.

In Detroit this morning, officials were expected to announce MIS and the Michigan Department of Transportation have entered into a partnership to use and market the Brooklyn speedway to firms that develop and manufacture connected-vehicle technologies. The technology enables vehicles to "talk" to each other in a way that will prevent collisions and improve fuel efficiency.

MIS President Roger Curtis said the companies involved will be able to take their designs out of the laboratory and test them in real-world settings.

"I'm very excited about what this means. This could be the next Silicon Valley," Curtis said. "We really now have the incubator for this technology to take off here in Michigan."

They will likely test the vehicles on the existing road course at the track and set up temporary traffic lights to mimic the experience of driving, while on a closed, private and neutral environment.

Aside from technology companies testing their products, automotive companies could also test their vehicles alongside their competitors to ensure the vehicles are "talking" to each other correctly.

He sees the track being a neutral, Switzerland-like setting.

"It has to work across all manufacturers," Curtis said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said using MIS in this way will ultimately strengthen the state's economy.

"To have this kind of test course here is an incredible asset," he said.

Companies make decisions on where to locate based on a number of factors, he said, but having the test course within range of 80 percent of all automotive research and design in the United States, might encourage firms to locate nearby.

The Connected Vehicle Proving Center and the Center for Automotive Research also are involved.

"Research and development is critical to the growth of this technology and its value in lowering the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities, as well as the potential impact on the automotive sector and job creation," David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, which is the home of the Connected Vehicle Proving Center, said in a statement.


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