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World War-II bomber plant “Willow Run” is now a driverless car test-site

Published: March 19, 2016 | Belleville, MI

The 335-acre Willow Run site, where B-24 bombers were made during World War II in a factory built by Henry Ford, will become a national-scale advanced automotive testing and product development center that can accommodate the broad needs of industry and government. The center will focus on testing, verification and certification of connected and automated vehicles and called as “American Centre of Mobility”.

John M. Maddox

The center, located in Ypsilanti Township, near Ann Arbor, will help accelerate advanced mobility vehicle development safely while bringing economic opportunity to both southeast Michigan and the United States. The property is currently owned by RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust, a not-for-profit organization that handles the properties abandoned by General Motors Co. during its bankruptcy.

RACER’s board of directors approved the appointment of John M. Maddox as CEO, effective immediately  on Friday. Maddox has been serving as assistant director of the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center. MTC operates Mcity, a connected and automated vehicle test facility on U-M’s North Campus. Maddox will retain a partial appointment with MTC.


Maddox said the organization will spend the next year completing its due diligence on acquiring the property before any construction will take place. He said it’s too early to comment on a potential opening date.


Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder announced the Willow Run project in January during his annual State of the State address, saying it’s “the world’s best place” to test connected and autonomous cars. The sprawling location is set to become an advanced automotive testing and product development center that focuses on testing, verification and certification of connected and automated vehicles. The state of Michigan is expected to provide $20 million through the Michigan Strategic Fund, with a seed grant to begin operations.

The test site is a joint initiative among the state of Michigan, including the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Economic Development Corp., the University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK. The center also will organize auto industry and community advisory boards at a later date.

Source: The Detroit News


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