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Foxconn Requests Autonomous Vehicle Lanes to Transport Workers to and from $10 Billion Wisconsin Factory 

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by Aaron Mack in Uncategorized
December 14, 2017

The construction of a $10 billion manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin—which is anticipated to create 13,000 jobs—may put the state in the autonomous vehicle spotlight.

Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group—a global manufacturer and key supplier to tech companies like Apple and Nintendo—will break ground on a 22 million square foot facility in 2018, where it will build high-definition screens for televisions, smartphones and other electronics. The new facility represents the largest construction project in Wisconsin state history. And in an unanticipated move, the company has asked state officials for road upgrades that would enable it to move its employees and goods to and from the factory using autonomous vehicles.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation in October requested federal authorization for $252 million in spending to expand I-94 in Racine County, in preparation for the increased vehicle traffic that will accompany the new facility. But sources say Foxconn has asked officials to also investigate what it would take to create a dedicated autonomous vehicle lane on I-94, as well as other improvements to support self-driving functionality.

Foxconn says the dedicated lane would help it use driverless vehicles to move goods between its factory and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. It also plans to transport upwards of 4,000 employees per shift to and from work using driverless cars. Employees would park their cars in lots just off the interstate, then be chauffeured the rest of the way to the factory in autonomous vehicles. Sources say these road upgrades could also incorporate connected vehicle technology, which is important for improving self-driving vehicle performance.

According to Milwaukee Business News, WisDOT has submitted an application at the federal level to include an autonomous lane in the planned I-94 expansion. WisDOT has stated that it is “strongly committed” to upgrading key roads near the plant to accommodate autonomous vehicles by 2021.

As a potential hurdle, Wisconsin does not currently have legislation on the books for autonomous vehicles. Governor Scott Walker last year ordered the formation of a steering committee to examine issues surrounding the burgeoning technology, including deployment needs, liability, insurance, and testing. The committee is expected to release a full report this June.

The US Department of Transportation recently selected the University of Wisconsin-Madison as one of 10 automated vehicle testing grounds across the nation. Now, it seems, the state may have good reason to emerge as a national leader in the field.

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