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Foxconn Wants a Highway Lane for Autonomous Vehicles in Wisconsin

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【Summary】Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that handles contract manufacturing for various companies, brought up the idea of having a lane just for driverless vehicles near its new factory in Wisconsin.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Nov 27, 2017 10:30 AM PT
Foxconn Wants a Highway Lane for Autonomous Vehicles in Wisconsin

Various automakers and technology companies are testing semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles on public roads at the moment. Waymo recently became the first company to start testing fully-driverless vehicles in Phoenix, as Alphabet Inc. looks to jump directly to Level 4 vehicles in the near future. While semi-autonomous and autonomous roads are sharing the road with traditional human-operated cars, a Taiwanese company has brought an interesting idea to light in Wisconsin. 

According to a report by the Journal Sentinel, Foxconn Technology Group, which is Apple Inc.'s main global manufacturing partner, has announced its plans for a mega-factory in Racine County – located approximately 25 miles south of Milwaukee. Interstate 94 is the major road that will run by the proposed plant and city officials have plans to widen the road from six lanes to eight in the hopes of reducing traffic in the area, reports The Drive

The Ideal Way For Autonomous Cars To Operate Alongside Traditional Vehicles

The factory, as The Drive claims, will cover an area of 20 million square feet and will cost $10 billion to build. Foxconn, clearly, brought a lot of money to the state, and now it wants something in return. As the Journal Sentinel reports, planners and Foxconn is looking into ways for some of the lanes on I-94 to be just for self-driving vehicles. 

According to the outlet, Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, brought the development of an autonomous-only lane to light at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee where he spoke on the challenges the region faces as Foxconn looks to setup. 

One of the major problems of the proposed facility is traffic. Foxconn, according to the Journal Sentinel, plans to employ approximately 13,000 individuals. The plan to add an autonomous lane for vehicles, as regional officials put it, would put the state "ahead of the curve" on traffic issues. 

Thinking About The Future Now

While widening I-94 to an eight-lane wide road would surely help with traffic, Foxconn wasn't too happy to hear that officials hadn't thought of an autonomous lane for them. When city officials went to the company with their accomplishments, Foxconn wasn't really impressed. "And we were all dumbstruck," said Sheehy. "When they looked at us and said, ‘So where's the autonomous vehicle lane?'" 

With Foxconn wanting an autonomous lane for vehicles, the Journal Sentinel, claims that state transportation planners are considering the possibility. "Yes, it is something we are looking at," said Michael Pyritz, spokesman for the department's southeast region. 

The process, though, isn't a guaranteed thing. The outlet claims that Pyritz said the process of "evaluation and making final decisions" on how to upgrade I-94 and other roads near the proposed facility "is a work in progress," as many options are being weighed. 

"It's on the table," he said Pyritz said, "but boy, there's a lot of stuff on the table." 

One possibility does stick out to planners, though, which involves an autonomous lane connecting Foxconn's plant and Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport. The self-driving lane would help the company ship supplies and products to and from the factory quicker. 

Foxconn's decision to ask for an autonomous lane startled officials, as it revealed just how far ahead the company was looking too. "We're thinking about two years down the road; they're thinking 20 years down the road," said Sheehy. 

via: Journal Sentinel, The Drive

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