Early this week, the University of Michigan together with Michigan Department of Transportation opened a new test environment that would enable car manufacturers and technology suppliers to test driverless cars in a controlled environment. Called Mcity, this 32-acre simulation of urban and suburban environment is the first of its kind and includes a network of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, streetlights, fake building facades, sidewalks and obstacles such as construction barrier. Unlike public streets, many of Mcity's elements are movable that will allow engineers to rearrange the city’s layout to create complex intersections, blind corners and all kinds of conditions imaginable. In addition, Mcity will also include robotic pedestrians that would pop out in front of traffic unexpectedly to see how well autonomous vehicles react.
“There are many challenges ahead as automated vehicles are increasingly deployed on real roadways,” said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. “Mcity is a safe, controlled, and realistic environment where we are going to figure out how the incredible potential of connected and automated vehicles can be realized quickly, efficiently and safely.”
“We would never do any dangerous or risky tests on the open road, so this will be a good place to test some of the next technology,” says Hideki Hada, general manager for electronic systems at Toyota’s Technical Center in Ann Arbor. “A big challenge is intersections in the city, because there are vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles together with complex backgrounds with buildings and connections to infrastructure. That’s why this is really important.”
The market for driverless technology is expected to grow to $42 billion by 2025, and self-driving cars may account for a quarter of global auto sales by 2035, according to Boston Consulting Group.
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