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Uber to open its driverless car research center in Detroit

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【Summary】Uber recently announced that it will soon open a research center in the suburbs of Detroit.

Original Claire    Jan 20, 2017 9:05 AM PT
Uber to open its driverless car research center in Detroit

After heading to Arizona for its driverless test trials, Uber has more strategic plans to develop its autonomous technology. The company recently announced that it will soon open a research center in the suburbs of Detroit. 

"We will be focused on integrating our technology into automakers' vehicles," Sherif Marakby, Uber vice president of global vehicle development, said at the Automotive News World Congress held in conjunction with the Detroit Auto Show. When touching on the plan to start a lab by the end of March, he said the local Uber office in Detroit already started recruitment a few months ago for its autonomous technology lab. And the goal is to build a center led by 100 employees.

"Many of our engineers were coming to Detroit on day trips and visiting and working with companies. A lot of the talent actually comes from Detroit. So it just felt like the right thing to do to actually have a place for people to work from," he added.

The center will be set up at Wixom, Michigan. The location's proximity to research universities and other tech companies made Uber choose the place as an ideal lab site. Marakby also mentioned that Uber will work with Tier 1 auto suppliers that make hardware for autonomous vehicles, and also automotive manufacturers. 

Michigan has attracted attention recently as Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that allows the testing and using of self-driving vehicles on public roads, including driverless cars without a driver in the front seat. Also legal in the state now are truck platoons and autonomous ride-sharing. Such open policy is getting an instant welcoming from companies that are developing autonomous technology. General Motors quickly announced that it will build its autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs in Michigan. And Google even before the new policy came out, has cooperated with Fiat Chrysler to open a facility in Novi near Detroit, to accelerate its autonomous development process. Ford as we know is delving into R&D for higher level (SAE L4-L5) driverless vehicles and set the deadline to sell fully autonomous cars by 2021

It seems like Michigan is trying to compete with Silicon Valley as the hub for futuristic cars. 

Now Uber is eyeing Detroit too. Before the plan to start the tech lab in Detroit, Uber already opened an advanced technology group office in Pittsburgh back in February 2015. Pittsburgh is also the first city where Uber implemented driverless vehicle testing. With the old motor city's legacy, and the new technological push, Detroit has a greater chance of being transformed into a hotbed for next-gen vehicles. 

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