$75M Robotics Facility to be Constructed at U-M, Feature Ford Facilities


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A rendering of the new Robotics Laboratory.

Courtesy: U-M

The University of Michigan Board of Regents has approved a schematic design for a new $75 million Robotics Laboratory, to be located at the university’s Ann Arbor campus. The building will operate as a robotic technologies facility that includes a dedicated space for Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co.

With a slate gray and silver façade, the 140,000-square-foot building will feature a three-story fly zone for autonomous aerial vehicles, outdoor obstacle courses for walking robots, high-bay garage space for self-driving cars, two large shared lab spaces, a collaboration area, offices for 30 faculty members and postdoctoral researchers, and two classrooms.

Ford Motor Co. will provide funding to also add a fourth floor that it will lease as a facility where its researchers will be based.

“What makes (U-M) special is that most of us here do both robotics theory and hardware,” says Jessy Grizzle, director of robotics at the university. “This new facility will give us cutting-edge lab space to test our theories on a broader scale, and in a collaborative environment that invites the exchange of ideas.”

Construction of the building, which is expected to be complete by winter 2020, is scheduled to begin after a comprehensive fundraising effort. The project is expected to provide an average of 66 on-site construction jobs.

Mcity, U-M's simulated urban and suburban environment for safe, controlled testing of advanced mobility vehicles and technologies, is located a half mile from the Robotics Laboratory site.

“With the new building's proximity to Mcity, Ford and U-M are poised to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles,” says Ken Washington, vice president of research and advanced engineering at Ford.

He says the co-located lab will deepen the collaborative research effort between the company and U-M. With a decade-long history, the Ford/U-M Innovation Alliance has led to nearly 200 collaborative research projects. 

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