New Flyer Innovation Center

New Flyer's Wayne Joseph speaks to the crowd during the grand opening of the New Flyer Vehicle Innovation Center in Anniston. (Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)

An Anniston bus manufacturer opened a $4.1 million center Thursday to design and build new electric and driverless vehicle technology.

New Flyer, the largest transit bus manufacturer in North America, held an opening ceremony at its Vehicle Innovation Center, located next to the company’s Anniston manufacturing plant. Part engineering hub and part museum and training center, the facility is New Flyer’s push toward furthering its zero emission vehicle standards, while creating cheaper, safer transportation across the country, company officials say.

More than 100 community leaders, New Flyer employees, company partners and transit industry officials turned out Thursday for the opening. New Flyer gave tours of the center’s educational exhibits and training areas, which included a bus driving simulator, examples of current battery technology, electric motors and charging stations. Upstairs houses the engineering and research sections.

Wayne Joseph, New Flyer transit bus president, said the center was the first of its kind for the bus industry in North America.

“This center will lead development of the future of transit technology, including autonomous driving and electric systems ... and it's all designed and developed right here in Anniston,” Joseph said. “We look forward to making a positive impact on the community and on innovation and jobs.”

Paul Soubry, president and CEO of New Flyer Group, said the center was a live, progressive place to learn, educate and share knowledge.

“We’re not waiting for the future to happen, we’re making it happen,” Soubry said.

Nathaniel Ford, chairman of the American Public Transportation Association, said the New Flyer center was at the forefront of change in the industry.

“Our industry is facing the most transformative time in a generation,” Ford said. “This is where training and education will take place not just for New Flyer, but the entire industry.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.