A track to test full and semi-autonomous vehicles will soon be added to the FT Techno of America facility at the Fowlerville Proving Grounds.

Handy Township’s Planning Commission recently approved site plans for the test track facility. Autonomous vehicles are self-driving or driver-less vehicles. The new facility will be about 16 acres in size and located inside the oval track within the proving grounds. Senior Manager of Operations Mike Benjamin says one reason FT Techno chose this location is because it allows room for future expansion as technology progresses.

Benjamin says the current technology used in most of these types of vehicles is only semi-autonomous, meaning the vehicle can stop if sensing imminent collision, but can still be somewhat controlled by a driver. Full autonomous vehicle research and testing is still in its infancy. Benjamin says they expect new tests and environments will be required in the future as the industry grows and government and automakers develop new standards and procedures.

The new track will be designed specifically to simulate real-world scenarios and test Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS. The tests will measure the vehicle’s performance in detecting and avoiding collisions with pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles in various environments.

The project, track and equipment included, is expected to cost approximately $5 million dollars. Benjamin says part of the track will look like a movie set of a city intersection complete with building facades. It will include a five-lane arterial intersection equipped with traffic signals and signage capable of communicating with the vehicles, a round-about intersection, a rural four-way stop sign intersection, highway merge on and off ramps, and a four-acre multi-purpose test pad.

Construction is expected to begin in May and Benjamin says they hope to complete the project by late fall. (DK)