Google, Drones, and the Future of Detroit: Michigan Central Station’s Transformation

Central Station, once a symbol of Detroit's struggles, is set to reopen on June 6, 2024, as a mobility innovation hub. Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. recently revealed that the campus will house Alphabet Inc.'s Google and conduct testing of drones, promising to attract and retain the tech talent needed for the automotive industry's next chapter.

Google's Presence and Startup Collaboration

According to Ford, Google will be among the tenants at Michigan Central Station, training students in coding and other technology-related skills. The station will reportedly serve as an open platform, encouraging collaboration between larger companies like Google and Ford with the 93 startups currently housed in the former Book Depository next door.

“It'll be bigger companies working in the train station hand-in-hand with these startups,” Ford stated at the Detroit Free Press' Breakfast Club Series. “This is an open platform. We want everyone to come. We don't want this be a Ford thing.”

Nonprofit Support and Community Engagement

The train station will also provide drop-in space for 10 nonprofit groups serving Detroit-area youth, as part of a $10 million campaign by Bill and Lisa Ford to establish permanent endowments for these organizations. The ground floor will feature restaurants, bars, retail, art, and music, making it a vibrant community space.

Sharnese Marshall, CEO of The Konnection, a nonprofit focused on chronically absent students in Detroit, recently took some students to the campus and New Lab.

“Now they want to work in transportation and mobility,” she said. “Before, they had no idea. But visually going and seeing it, they got excited about it.”

Testing of Drones and Innovative Transportation Solutions

Ford Motor Co. has secured rights to the roads around the campus and Federal Aviation Administration air rights to conduct drone testing and vehicle-to-drone testing for delivery and search-and-rescue applications. The company has also partnered with the state and smart-road startup Cavnue LLC to develop a first-in-the-nation autonomous vehicle corridor between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

In November, the Michigan Transportation Department and the city of Detroit opened a quarter-mile segment of 14th Street outside New Lab, becoming the first road in the to use technology from startup Electreon Wireless Ltd. that can charge electric vehicles as they move.

The transformation of Michigan Central Station into a mobility innovation hub represents a significant step forward for Detroit and the automotive industry. With the presence of Google, drone testing capabilities, and collaboration with startups, the campus is poised to become a unique and unrivaled site. As Bill Ford stated, “Silicon Valley doesn't have that.”

Despite the challenges faced by the industry in the transition to electric vehicles, Ford remains optimistic about the future, emphasizing the company's diverse offerings and readiness to adapt to customer demands. The reopening of Michigan Central Station marks a new chapter for Detroit, showcasing its strength and potential in the realm of transportation and mobility.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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