ANN ARBOR, MI – Michigan’s road to the future runs through a college campus, has a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h), has no potholes (yet) and will serve as a neutral ground for competing automakers and suppliers to test self-driving cars and make sure they don’t crash into each other.

Even before the ribbon was cut Monday at Mcity, a $10 million 32-acre (13-ha) test track with roundabouts, bike lanes, a tree canopy and 4-way intersections to simulate small-town traffic situations, public officials and politicians were talking openly about opening another larger facility for higher-speed testing on the grounds of the former General Motors transmission plant in Ypsilanti, next to Willow Run Airport.

“There’s a pretty strong proposal going to make that happen,” Peter Sweatman, director of the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center, tells journalists as Mcity opens for business.

“We won’t be able to handle the volume of testing here. As connected and automated mobility becomes more of a product that is attractive to consumers and we see more of it, we have more companies involved, and there’s a volume of testing that needs to be done,” he says. “We’d like to see that happen at Willow Run. We would like to see that facility built.”

If the state of Michigan and local governments can come up with a plan for the GM property, currently held in the RACER land trust following the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy, the university would be a partner and advisor but would not manage such an operation at the Willow Run property, Sweatman says.

Instead, Ann Arbor Spark, a regional economic growth organization, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. have the leadership role in getting the Willow Run project off the ground, Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, tells WardsAuto.

Steudle sees Mcity, with its connection to the U-M School of Engineering, as a place for advanced research, which is necessary now as automakers and suppliers test the waters with self-driving features such as automated emergency braking and camera-based lane-keeping.

“The Willow Run piece of it will get more toward certification” of vehicles as they near production launch, Steudle says. “You’ve tested it, and now you’ve got to have a space where you can run this a thousand times and on a much bigger scale.”