Foxconn, the Taiwanese company known for doing contract manufacturing for companies like Apple, brought up the idea of adding autonomous vehicle lanes to a stretch of Interstate 94 near its new Wisconsin factory in a meeting with regional officials, according to the Journal Sentinel.
The highway is already slated to be widened from six lanes to eight in anticipation of traffic from the factory, which will cover 20 million square feet and cost $10 billion to build. But Foxconn reportedly suggested that some lanes be reserved for autonomous vehicles only. Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, suggested that driverless-vehicle lanes could connect the Foxconn factory with Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport.
That doesn't mean the dedicated lanes are anywhere close to a done deal, though. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation told the Journal Sentinel that the autonomous-driving proposal is just one of many "on the table." Implementing the plan would likely require significant legal wrangling...not to mention the acquisition of a fleet of autonomous vehicles.
Foxconn announced plans for an autonomous-vehicle development center in Michigan in August, so the company is definitely interested in the technology. Michigan has a fairly open attitude to self-driving cars, which isn't surprising, given the massive auto industry presence in the state. But it's unclear how Wisconsin will handle autonomous vehicles—or if officials are really willing to dedicate highway lanes to them.
The promise of jobs can be a great regulatory lubricant, though. Foxconn's Wisconsin factory, which will manufacture LCD screens, is expected to create 13,000 of them. Can that good will help Foxconn turn the Midwest into the next self-driving car hotbed?