A new test center at its famed Chelsea Proving Grounds is about to begin operations.
Of all of the major automakers, FCA has arguably been the quietest regarding its stance on self-driving cars. Yes, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan has been, and continues to be, the self-driving test vehicle of choice for Waymo, a partnership FCA is rightly very proud of. But what about autonomous driving R&D being done by FCA itself? Today we have our answer.
The automaker has just announced it has invested $30 million in an all-new facility solely dedicated to the testing and development of self-driving vehicles and other related technologies including "advanced driver-assistance systems, advanced safety technology, and assessment to third-party safety ratings." Some of those third parties include the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the European New Car Assessment Program.
Located at FCA's Chelsea Proving Grounds in southeast Michigan, the new facility will be up and running this month. Some of its components are a dedicated autonomous highway-speed track, 35-acre safety feature evaluation area, and a high-tech command center. "The all-new facility at Chelsea Proving Grounds will help support and enable the successful rollout of the company's five-year plan laid out earlier this year," said FCA CEO Mike Manley. "Our ability to test for autonomous and advanced safety technologies enables FCA to offer our customers the features they want across our brand portfolio."
This project clearly took quite a bit of planning, considering the significant investment. For example, that autonomous highway-speed track includes obstacles, tunnels, various road lighting conditions, and even interstate-style exit and entrance ramps. The command center itself encompasses over 6,500 square feet and is equipped with the necessary computers and other tools such as GPS capability and test vehicle communication.
The Chelsea Proving Grounds have been utilized by Chrysler (pre-FCA days) since 1954 and it's since been expanded and developed over the decades. Today, it covers nearly 4,000 acres and has a road-surface total of 100 miles, complete with off-road testing trails. A total of 900 people currently work there and now that there's a self-driving test facility, more hiring is likely to happen.