Drivers not wanted: Alphabet offspring plotting 40-mile autonomous vehicle corridor
- October 1, 2020: Vol. 7, Number 9

Drivers not wanted: Alphabet offspring plotting 40-mile autonomous vehicle corridor

by Mike Consol

Cavnue, a subsidiary company of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, has unveiled its first major project, a 40-mile corridor dedicated to autonomous vehicles and running between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. Beyond that, Cavnue and its partners — including BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota and Waymo, among others — envision numerous corridors designed for autonomous shuttles and buses, as well as trucks and personal vehicles.

Cavnue and its partner companies are working on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto U.S. highways and city streets. The initial Detroit-to-Ann Arbor corridor will connect driverless vehicles with communities along Michigan Avenue and Interstate 94, and destinations such as Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Michigan Central Station and the University of Michigan. The corridor will also encompass 12 opportunity zones.

Cavnue’s parent company Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners was spun out of Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, to fund and develop next-generation infrastructure. A report by TechCrunch noted the sweeping nature of Cavnue’s mission is also an admission of sorts that commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles is farther away than initially thought. To justify the billions of dollars of investment required to continue research and development around autonomy, companies need near-term applications. And those applications will require physical infrastructure to work.

The project’s early phases will look at the commercial and technological viability of the roadway’s design. Connected mass transit vans and shuttles will be the first vehicles to populate the new corridor, which will eventually be expanded to accommodate trucks and personal vehicles.

TechCrunch also reported that in 2018, Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford envisioned a connected corridor similar to the one that Cavnue is proposing to build, and now Ford is a partner in the Cavnue project. The tech business news service went on to quote Ford saying: “My vision for Michigan Central is to create an open mobility innovation district that solves tomorrow’s transportation challenges and improves mobility access for everyone. Building out a connected corridor cements Michigan as a leader in creating a more connected, autonomous and electrified future. We thank the state for recognizing the community and economic benefits and the importance of creating smart infrastructure across southeast Michigan.”


Mike Consol ( is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.


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