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University of Michigan breaks ground on Ford Robotics Building

By David Schwartz
Published: April 17th, 2018

The University of Michigan has started construction on the $75 million Ford Motor Company Robotics Building, a four-story complex with 140,000 square feet that will house classrooms, a startup-style open concept collaboration area, offices, and lab space.

The entire fourth floor of the building will be leased by Ford to conduct robotics engineering and research in collaboration with the university and other industry leaders.

Other plans include an outdoor obstacle course for mobile robots, a three-story fly zone for autonomous drones, a space for mobility and rehabilitation robots, and a high-bay garage for autonomous vehicles.
“At Michigan, our research and education are strengthened by collaborations with industry that help us drive forward in our mission while powering the economic prosperity of our state,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel during a groundbreaking ceremony.

U-M and Ford have a long history of research partnership, lately centered on autonomous vehicle research, and the new facility is likely to further solidify that relationship.

The facility will add the university to the small list of institutions that have a dedicated robotics facility. In addition, the college is launching the Robotics Institute, which will also be housed in the building.

“The Robotics Institute is really all about people, and this new building will make it possible for the roboticists of today, as well as those of tomorrow, to work together across disciplines in unprecedented ways,” said Jessy Grizzle, U-M’s inaugural director of robotics. 

“Today, our students and faculty members are scattered in 12 different departments and six different schools and colleges. This building will bring them together. It will facilitate the exchange of ideas. It will inspire bold ideas. And its advanced labs will provide the space to make those dreams real,” he said.

“With the strength of the University of Michigan — including Mcity and the new Ford Robotics building, the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Ford World Headquarters and engineering campus in Dearborn, and our growing presence in Detroit — southeastern Michigan is fast becoming a corridor of mobility innovation unlike you’ll find anywhere else in the world,” said Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering and chief technology officer.


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