ANN ARBOR, MICH. - The University of Michigan is set to receive $27 million from a Chinese investment firm to aid in the institution's driverless vehicle and robotics research.
U-M President Mark Schlissel and Vice President for Research S. Jack Hu signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday in Shenzhen, China, with Frontt Capital Management Ltd.
Schlissel said in a statement that the firm's investment will help advance mobility across the world.
"Fatal crashes are all too common, and transportation is one of the largest sources of climate changing greenhouse gases. The world needs a better way for people and goods to get around, and we believe autonomous, connected vehicles are an important component of the solution," Schlissel said.
The funding will be used to establish a joint research center at the university and help construct a previously announced robotics laboratory and garage. It'll also provide engineering service and consulting fees for university researchers to advise the firm on the design of an autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen.
Once the facility is up and running, the university's partners will be able to test their autonomous and connected vehicles in an environment that differs from that of the U.S., Hu said.
"The potential to save lives is tremendous," Hu said. "And since autonomous vehicles are safer, they could eventually be made of lighter-weight materials, so they'd use less fuel."
Officials said they expect the investments to be made over five years, but a starting time hasn't been finalized.
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