Ann Arbor

First Dedicated Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Test Track Opens in Ann Arbor

Yet another automotive proving ground opened in Ann Arbor, Mich. today, but the Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) is quite different from existing tracks. There is no shortage of automotive test tracks scattered around southeast Michigan mostly operated by automakers and larger suppliers that do everything from salt baths to high-speed stability to running over pounding potholes. These facilities tend to be highly secured facilities where outsiders are rarely welcome. Ford engineers don’t get to hang out at GM’s Milford Proving Ground and GM people are persona non-grata in Dearborn. At MTC Mcity course, all of these engineers will have a place where they can come together and collaborate along with researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).


Let's give Justin Zatkoff the attention he clearly craves

Since Justin Zatkoff was so anxious to get attention when he falsely claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime at the hands of liberal thugs several years back, let's not let the web forget about it. He used the DMCA to get my friend +Mark Maynard's blog taken down the other day in an attempt to cover up his past, so if you are a Reddit user, go upvote the story there.  

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How was taken down in a web-washing attempt by false “hate crime” victim Justin Zatkoff : AnnArbor
**This text has been taken from under fair usage: […

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I wish I still worked in Ann Arbor so I could participate in V2X test program 1

I wish I still worked in Ann Arbor so I could participate in V2X test program

I took +Julie Abuelsamid's car over to UMTRI yesterday to get some equipment installed so that it could be a part of this safety pilot program.  They installed a GPS receiver, data logger and transmitter that will send speed and location data receivers installed around Ann Arbor over the next year. It's part of a test of vehicle to infrastructure communications which has the potential to reduce congestion and improve safety and efficiency in coming years. 


Bicycles, motorcycles to join thousands of talking cars operating in northeast Ann Arbor
Researchers are looking for more volunteers for a real-word deployment of roughly 2,800 connected vehicles in Ann Arbor.

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School district consolidation finally on the table, many years too late!

It’s long overdue, but under the threat of being taken over by an emergency financial manager, the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts are finally seriously considering consolidating into a single entity. While this absolutely needs to happen, it doesn’t go far enough.  Nearly six years ago, I wrote a post on this blog advocating the idea of combining Ypsi, Willow Run and the Lincoln school districts and the situation has deteriorated dramatically since that time.

A combined Willow Run-Ypsilanti district will have about 5,300 students, less than half the number in neighboring Ann Arbor. At the very least, Lincoln (which covers much of southern Ypsilanti Township) should be part of this blended district and I seriously believe that they should be talking about merging with Ann Arbor as well.

The system in Michigan that allows so many tiny districts as well as separate cities and townships hurts everyone this state. I’m a liberal and a believer that there is a place for government in providing essential services like education, infrastructure and so on. But I’m also a pragmatist that understands that we need efficiency in how we deliver those services.

Administrators tend to have high salaries and if we want great teachers we need to pay them a decent salary.  Having many small districts means we are paying for too many administrators leaving less for the rank and file teachers that have to educate the students. It also makes it much more difficult to offer students a variety of elective educational options.

It’s important for residents to participate at the neighborhood school level, but the reality is they need to be willing to give up a bit of the hyper-local control and take advantage of some “economies of scale” in managing schools.

As long as we’re finally talking consolidation, lets take it a few steps further and at least combine more services at the county level such as busing, food services and others. Hopefully, these first steps will finally get our schools back on a more sound financial footing.

Eat at Grange! you won’t be sorry 1

grangeMASTHEAD2The Grange Kitchen and Bar is officially opening up on Thursday night in Ann Arbor and we were fortunate to get invited to attend a preview the other night.  Our friend Brandon Johns along with his wife Sara is at the helm for this new eatery on W Liberty in the space formerly occupied by Bella Ciao. Brandon and the crew have transformed the interior of the place from old world Italian to something with a bright, airy country kitchen feel.  That’s appropriate given Brandon’s emphasis on locally grown, seasonal ingredients. That also means that the menu will be changing up regularly as very elements of dishes become available and go away.

One example is the squash blossoms filled with goat cheese that were lightly battered in an almost tempura like coating and fried. These were amazingly tasty and didn’t feel at all greasy. Another of Brandon’s signature appetizers is the date, chorizo and blue cheese which always go quickly when he caters a party.

In spite of the fact that Brandon keeps the menu deliberately short, you’ll find yourself struggling to choose. Personally I went for the grilled halibut with a Portugese style seafood stew. The fish was perfectly cooked and sat amongst a bed of mussels, shrimp and house made chorizo sausage. The best part was the broth that surrounded it which was full of all the flavors combined.  Max had the grilled pork loin with chorizo and buckwheat dumplings while Sofia had the roasted chicken breast with crispy skin and Jules had the steak. The fillet was covered in a bacon-blue cheese crust and accompanied by whipped potatoes and red-wine syrup.

This may have been the first time that the kitchen staff worked together for customers other than the Grange team, but it didn’t matter. All of the food was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. Our server was also very professional and very well prepared. She was able to explain the various items on the menu and what made selections like the squash blossoms special (that is that they are only available for about two weeks a year).

At Brandon’s last establishment over on Main St, the main courses and starters were also typically well prepared, but desserts were often a bit of a disappointment. This time, Brandon and Sara have taken the feedback to heart and Sara’s sister (this is definitely a family business) is now responsible for preparing desserts. Here again we could find nothing to complain about other than the fact that we were too stuffed to eat more. The blueberry roll, chocolate cake and the fruit and nut tart were all outstanding.

We haven’t had a chance to try the menu at the upstairs bar yet, but for those looking for something a bit lighter than the main menu, it looks like there will be great choices there too. Grange will be open for dinner every night except Sunday and you should definitely check it out.

Changes in the local restaurant scene

Just over a year ago coworker and friend Sara Johns and her husband chef Brandon Johns bought into the Ann Arbor restaurant Vinology. Brandon made tremendous progress with his attempts to create a dining experience based around fresh locally sourced foods.  Food went from being something of an afterthought to the wines at Vinology to coming front and center. Unfortunately the partnership with the majority owners didn’t work out and Brandon has moved on to a new project.

He and Sara along with my boss Rob Cleveland and another partner have bought Bella Ciao on Liberty St and will be transforming it. Bella Ciao will shut down later this month and then re-open in August as the Grange Kitchen and Bar. Brandon plans to continue the local food effort with a rotating menu based on what is available at different times of the year.

Hopefully with full control this time, things will work out better and the Grange will become a permanent fixture on the local restaurant scene.

By the way if you happen to be in downtown Ann Arbor around lunch time, you might want to hit Kerry Town and check out Monahan’s seafood market where they have a daily special that you can find posted on their twitter feed at Sparrow’s meats is also doing sandwiches and salads at lunch now over by the checkout counter.

Beagle Brain for computer repairs 4


A new computer supply and repair shop just opened up around the corner from my downtown Ann Arbor office that so far at least is highly recommended. Beagle Brain is located at the west end of Nickels Arcade opposite the entrance to the Maynard parking structure. I’ve been wanting to put a bigger hard drive in my macbook pro for some time but unlike the plastic macbooks, swapping the drive is a more complex procedure. The whole aluminum case has to be opened up with lots of little screws to lose and several connectors. I stopped into the shop last week to see how much they would charge to do the remove and replace procedure, and to my pleasant surprise the price was a very palatable $30. I went ahead and ordered the new hard drive from Newegg and when it arrived I cloned the current drive to an external unit with Super Duper!. I dropped off my laptop when I went into the office and picked it up at lunch time. I plugged in the external drive to clone the data back to the new larger drive and a couple of hours later I was good to go.  If you need some repair work done and you’re in downtown A2 it’s definitely worth checking out Beagle Brain.

Vinology re-born, food now on a par with wine!

For wine lovers, Vinology has been one of the best places to go in the Ann Arbor area since it opened on north Main St. a couple of years ago.  With a big cellar and knowledgable wine specialists they held regular wine dinners and could always recommend the right wine to go with a meal.  Unfortunately, until recently the meal side of the equation was a bit of a mixed bag.  The menu had too many options and was of inconsistent quality.  For those who have equal or greater interest in the food rather than the wine, there is now great news.

My work colleague Sara Johns and her husband Brandon, recently bought a stake in Vinology.  Brandon was formerly the chef at the Chop House and practises his culinary craft in the kitchen of Vinology. The menu has been drastically pared down and several new dishes have been added.  We went to Vinology for Jules’ birthday dinner the other night and all the dishes were excellent.  The gnocchi with morels that I had was especially good and Jules loved her pan roasted chicken with a whole grain salad.  The asparagus salad with poached duck egg was also a fabulous appetizer. Brandon prefers to use local ingredients wherever possible and the menu will be adjusted periodically to take advantage of in-season produce.

If you’re looking for a great meal and you haven’t been to Vinology since the beginning of June, it’s definitely worth checking out.

More clarity

It’s come to my attention that my previous post on opportunity left some readers confused as to what I was talking about.  So let me make this perfectly clear.  I got a new job and today was my last day at the old place.  After 16 years the time has come to move on.  Not being one to torch bridges, I’ll just say that I worked with a lot of great people over my years at Kelsey-Hayes and it’s subsequent corporate incarnations.  As for the company itself, well enough has been said about that.

On Monday I begin my tenure at ICON Creative Technologies and I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship.   I’m shifting from engineering to being a full-time automotive journalist, a role in which I hope to inform and educate readers on the latest automotive technologies and advancements.  And I’ll be doing it from an office in downtown Ann Arbor!