• Pacific Raceways plans innovation center for electric and driverless car companies

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    The region's hub for motorsports is about to become an innovation center for companies developing electric and self-driving cars.

    Pacific Raceways plans to break ground this month on 200,000 square feet of commercial space on the property, with very specific tenants in mind.

    "We want to pair the traditional motorsports industry with automotive innovation," said Jason Fiorito, president of Pacific Raceways.

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    Fiorito's grandfather opened the first track in 1960.

    To keep it going in a time of challenges for the motorsports industry, and to fund improvements that will attract bigger events, he plans to build the Pacific Innovation Center in an empty field.

    He'll lease to companies working on electric and autonomous vehicles, giving them a place to build prototypes right next to tracks they can use for testing.

    Fiorito said an Australian company building a battery-powered dragster is among the first to sign up.

    "What we're promoting right here is the first-of-its-kind nationally to leverage the proximity of a racing surface and a commercial development with essentially a blank slate to become the hub of an entire new industry in our state," Fiorito said.

    The state's commerce department and research universities are on board.

    Fiorito says all the financing will be private.

    The first phase will be $25 million, with up to $300 million invested over 15 years.

    Ideas include building a streetscape course for testing driverless cars.

    "We could simulate crosswalks, stoplights, street driving experiences," Fiorito said.

    The first phase of the innovation center is expected to be built in the next three to five years.

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