Uber to Open Research Center in Detroit This Year
New tech facility will enable the company to better coordinate with manufacturers.
As part of its effort to branch out into self-driving vehicles, ride-hailing company Uber plans to open a technology research center in greater Detroit by the end of 2016, according to one of the company’s executives.
At a Society of Automotive Engineers event in Detroit on Monday, Uber vice president of global vehicle programs Sherif Marakby announced the California-based company will create a facility somewhere around Motor City in order to better work with the many automotive manufacturers headquartered there. The ride-hailing company wants to work with local carmakers on developing and building future self-driving vehicles, according to Automotive News.
“Detroit is where the automotive industry has really developed — very, very strong talent base; very strong companies — and Uber wants to be part of that,” Marakby said, according to The Detroit News. “The model for scale is collaborating with the auto companies.”
While the research center’s purpose is clear, the scope of the facility still remains up in the air. Uber is “flexible” on the size of the facility, Marakby said, but the center could be large enough to handle numerous self-driving vehicle prototypes. The company is currently working with the state of Michigan to streamline the legal process to allow such testing; while the state legislature recently passed bills designed to encourage autonomous vehicle testing, some language that seems to restrict such programs to existing manufacturers could prove problematic for companies such as Uber.
“Positive legislation that allows technology companies like Uber to operate in Michigan will only help that,” Marakby said. “We’re very much working with the state on that. We hope it’s going to be a positive result.”
Uber is currently running a self-driving car test program in Pittsburgh featuring Ford and Volvo vehicles. While Volvo is providing the XC90 sport-utility vehicles for the trial, the Ford Fusions were purchased through dealerships—something Uber hopes to avoid going forward. (Hey, we can’t blame them.)