California and Michigan are currently fighting a chunk of close to $4 billion in federal funding that President Barack Obama proposed last month to develop autonomous vehicles. Both are proposing World War II military sites as the place to test autonomous technologies. But Michigan has an interesting trump card; potholes.
Anyone who has driven the roads in Michigan knows they are quite terrible (and that's being somewhat kind). Due to the harsh weather conditions and difficulty in keeping the roads maintained, potholes spring up and can grow into very frightening sizes.
“California is not the real world -- they don’t have four seasons. We’ve got real potholes. It’s a much more real-world scenario,” said Debbie Dingell, the Democratic congresswoman representing Ypsilanti, MI.
Michigan is proposing to use the run down Willow Run factory site - a former bomber and GM transmission plant - as the test site. Not only does the site offer a wide range of potholes, it is also quite large - 330 acres to be exact. The state has put up $20 million to buy and develop the site from Racer Trust, a holding company set up by GM during the 2009 bankruptcy.
California's proposal is the former Navy base in Concord, California (near San Francisco) that offers 2,100 acres and 20 miles of roads. It is also the home to GoMentum Station, a facility that tests autonomous vehicles.
Both locations have their advantages. California's location is nearby Silicon Valley. Michigan's location is nearby a number auto manufacturer testing and engineering facilities.
Who will take the prize? Supporters believe with pothole-laden roads and the harsh winters could give Michigan the edge.
We'll be watching this fight.