One Michigan relic of the past may be converted into a transportation-testing site geared towards the future. What the project needs in the present, though, is money, the Detroit News reports. Non-profit American Center for Mobility is eyeing the old Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti for its autonomous-vehicle testing center. The factory's 335-acre grounds would be converted to a neighborhood and road testing simulator that would include cul-de-sacs, bridges, tunnels, and traffic stops.

The American Center for Mobility says it has $3 million promised from the state, and that total may rise to $20 million by the end of the month. Still, the total project cost will be closer to $80 million, leaving roughly $60 million gap. With that in mind, the group has contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Department of Energy for additional funding.

The good news is that, in addition to being located in the cradle of US automobile production, there are traffic lights at the site that former property owner General Motors installed. Additionally, the water tanks on the property can be used to simulate rain and flood conditions for testing purposes. The American Center for Mobility is discussing a project's first phase that would include a 2.5-mile "highway simulation loop" that could be built by the end of next year.

The plant built its first plane in 1942 and was named by the state of Michigan as a historic site in 1980. After producing B-24 bombers for World War II, it was repurposed as a factory for General Motors. The automaker most recently built automatic transmissions there before shutting the facility down in late 2010. The land is currently owned by the RACER Trust that was formed from pre-bankruptcy GM assets. The plan is for it to be sold to an LLC that would then lease it to the American Center for Mobility.

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