Kettering University hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate completion of phase one of the Kettering University GM Mobility Research Center on October 10.
Construction began on the facility, the only one of its kind on a college campus in the country, in 2015 and was funded in part through a $2 million investment from the GM Foundation. The outdoor lab space and proving ground will be used to enhance research and development of autonomous vehicles, vehicle safety standards, hybrid and electric vehicle technologies and many other uses.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support from GM and the GM Foundation we have received in support of our development of the Mobility Research Center,” said Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan. “The MRC will have a tremendous impact on our ability to continue educating the nation’s best and most innovative scientists and engineers. It will open up many new opportunities for our faculty to engage in applied research at the cutting edge of autonomous vehicle systems design and engineering. It will also provide a state-of-the-art facility for our more than 600 corporate partners to use when researching, developing, and testing new mobility and transportation technologies. For all of these reasons, the MRC is already acting like a magnet - attracting companies in Michigan and from around the U.S. to come to Flint to engineer these new technologies and to establish facilities here in support of those efforts.”
Phase One of the project included major site improvements, the construction of a state-of-the art brownfield water and runoff management systems, as well as the construction of a 3.25 acre test pad built to race track performance specifications on what was previously a 21-acre industrial brownfield. The site also includes stadium-style lighting, fencing and landscaping.
“As leaders in the development of new vehicle and mobility technology, GM understands how a facility like this will provide future members of the technical workforce with a one-of-a-kind environment to perfect their skills,” said Diana Tremblay ’82, GM Vice President, Global Business Services Group. “GM is proud to support a project and facility that will help Michigan play a key role in autonomous vehicle development, and we are proud to continue our longstanding support for the Flint community.”
Kettering recently also received a $1.9 million grant from the United States Economic Development Administration that will support construction of phase two of the project in early 2017.
“I applaud Kettering University and GM for their partnership in creating this one-of-a-kind learning and research opportunity for students around the country,” said Congressman Dan Kildee. “Bringing a state-of-the-art research facility to the birthplace of GM will make sure Flint continues to play a leading role in the country’s auto industry.”
Components of phase two include a low-speed road course with elevation and surface changes, optional routes, and other features aimed at creating diverse testing environments. A research annex and garage will also be constructed on the site that will include automotive bays, conferencing and office spaces, as well as indoor lab spaces.
“This project is a good example of how we can bring industrial properties back to life in exciting and productive ways here in the city,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “Essentially this is giving Flint a one-of-a-kind facility that will potentially draw companies from all over the country to do research and testing here in partnership with Kettering University. That's exciting.”
“The students and faculty at Kettering University will literally change the world for everybody,” said Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. “I'm so proud that it's not just happening in Michigan but it's happening in Flint, on this particular site. This is part of a transformation of a corridor along the river from Chevy Commons to Downtown and beyond. This is symbolic for what is possible in the future.”
Another distinctive aspect of the facility is its connection to Kettering’s 4G LTE Advanced wireless cellular research network. Kettering is the only university in the country operating a private 4G LTE Advanced cellular network infrastructure. The network operates at 10X the data speed of current cellular networks, and provides researchers on the proving ground and surrounding areas with unique access to the next generation of cellular communications systems.
“Over the last 100 years, Kettering University and our alumni have played leading roles in the development of the worldwide automotive industry, and this facility allows us to continue to lead in the development of technologies that are the future of that industry, including connected and autonomous vehicle systems,” McMahan said. “The mobility research and development programs we conduct here will also attract economic investment and opportunity in Flint. We are excited to celebrate the opening of the Kettering University MRC – a facility that will both help define the future of Flint as well as to help secure Michigan’s position as the nation’s leader in the development of mobility systems.”