Now, with the dawn of the autonomous vehicle well within sight and plans for its Wisconsin plant progressing at full speed, Foxconn, which is perhaps best known as Apple's iPhone supplier, has suggested creating interstate lanes specifically for self-driving vehicles.
Taiwan-based Foxconn made headlines earlier this year when it first announced plans for a major manufacturing facility in Wisconsin. It followed the news a fortnight later with news that it will build a research facility in Michigan to develop self-driving technologies.
With the dedicated lane push, Foxconn joins Pacific Northwest firm Madrona Venture Group and Amazon in the aim to build highways with an eye on emerging technologies. Madrona has formally proposed similar lanes along I-5, and earlier this year, Amazon was awarded a patent for a new way of using lanes in the self-driving age.
The interstate Foxconn on which wants dedicated lanes is I-94, which is already facing a major renovation and expansion in preparation for Foxconn’s factory—and its more than 10,000 jobs. Members of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and the U.S. Department of Transportation met to discuss I-94 expansion plans with Foxconn representatives, who then brought up the notion of self-driving lanes.
President of the MMAC, Tim Sheehy, described the meeting, saying officials, “thought we were ahead of the curve, and we were all dumbstruck when they looked at us and said, ‘So where’s the autonomous vehicle lane?’”
The Department of Transportation is “looking into” the possibility, according to officials.
While the proposed lanes could theoretically connect Foxconn’s factory and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport, don’t look for them anytime soon. While the government is taking measures to speed the development of self-driving cars, the market is still years away from the first commercially-available versions, let alone having enough self-driving vehicles on the road to justify their own lane.