Connected Vehicle

University of Michigan builds simulated city to test self-driving cars

Published: June 7, 2014 | United States

The University of Michigan has built a simulated city which will open this fall. The simulated city will test self-driving cars to analyze how they respond to various traffic events.


The university officials revealed that the facility will be one of a kind and no university in the entire world has built a self-driven car testing city. The University of Michigan claims that the facility will be ready to test automated vehicles from this fall.

The testing area, Mobility Transformation Facility, will be built on 32 acres of city center. The facility will also include a four-lane highway that will let researchers analyze how automated cars enter and exit from high speed highway traffic. The testing facility is expected to include street lights that can be programmed, mechanical pedestrians and simulated buildings. It will model the kind of connected and automated mobility system that the center aims to enable in Ann Arbor by 2021.

The facility will be operated by U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center, a public/private partnership that aims to change how people and goods move around – and starting in Southeast Michigan near the heart of the nation’s auto industry. The College of Engineering is one of several university members of the center, and it contributed funding for the facility. Two Michigan Engineering robotics researchers will be among its first users.

The key objective to build the fake city is to let researchers analyze how self-driven cars and networked vehicles react to exceptional but hazardous traffic events and varied but unpredictable road settings. The researchers claim that this kind of testing is required to ensure that futuristic self-driving cars are safe enough to operate on the real city streets with real cars and people around.

Michigan Engineering researchers will initially use the facility to run tests on an automated Ford Fusion hybrid. They’re working with the company to develop sensors and mapping technology for the vehicle.

Ford officials envision a future in which humans stay behind the wheel and automated technologies enhance their abilities. Others are aiming to take the person out of the driver’s seat entirely. In both cases, vehicles need practice, in a sense, handling tough situations.

Representatives from U-M and industry members of the Mobility Transformation Center held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the facility in May.

Source: University of Michigan


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