Crows Landing hosts some of the world’s stealthiest autonomous vehicle startups
You’ve probably heard of Mcity, the fake city built by the University of Michigan to test self-driving cars in Ann Arbor. GoMentum Station in the Bay Area has also been in the news, with Apple and Otto looking for a secure location to put highly automated vehicles through their paces.
But there is a facility in rural California where companies have quietly tested autonomous vehicles for decades without anyone noticing. Crows Landing Air Facility is a 1,500-acre former air base near Modesto with two vast concrete runways, surrounded by farmland.
According to documents sourced by IEEE Spectrum through public records requests, some of Silicon Valley’s hottest automotive startups have used Crows Landing for secret self-driving tests. In the past 18 months, Faraday Future, Lucid, Torc, Rivian, and Zoox have all tested prototype cars there, along with automated semi-trucks from Peloton and Embark. Mercedes Benz and Bosch also carry out regular automotive experiments at the facility.
“We have multiple year-over-year relationships with several car companies and vehicle testing firms,” confirmed Keith Boggs, Assistant Executive Officer for Stanislaus County, which owns Crows Landing. “The reason why these firms are so attracted to Crows Landing is because it’s so remote.”
Crows Landing’s nearest neighbours are empty fields, but it is just one mile from Interstate 5, and only about 90 minutes by car from San Jose. And it has other advantages. Unlike GoMentum Station, which is still partly controlled by the military, Crows Landing has no restrictions on foreign nationals, who make up a significant part of many autonomous technology engineering teams. Crows Landing is also cheap, costing as little as $600 a day to rent the entire facility, according to county documents.
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