The University of Michigan has recently opened up Mcity, the first controlled environment in the world meant for testing of self-driven cars.
This ambitious plan first sprung into life, back in June 2014, when it was announced that a 32-acre playground that Mobility Transformation Center designed and developed in conjunction with the private sector, which includes the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was going to be opened. The main agenda behind this project is to ensure that by the time 2021 comes around; all automated, connected and self-driven cars will be running on Ann Arbor roads.
This is nothing like a normal playground or simply a test track, rather, in MTC director’s own words, this faux city is a “test environment.” Here you will find real life simulations that are meant to help the vehicles being tested navigate urban and suburban routes with traffic signs, intersections, signals, building facades, streetlights, sidewalks and construction as well. Peter Sweatman, the director of MTC, also notes that there are so many challenges ahead as more and more auto cars keep flooding the real roadways. As a result, there was need for such a facility that is safe, controlled and offers the car makers a realistic environment where they can figure out more on the potential of this emerging technology.
There are already quite a number of new driving techs that are being tested across the U.S. However, Mcity promises something different and unique in addition to performing a rigorous examination of any car before sending it out to the real roads.
On this note, there are some minor changes installed in the facility, for instance, road signs have been defaced by graffiti and lane markings are also faded. This is to help examine how these connected and auto cars can handle the daily challenges faced and can be interpreted by human drivers. Sweatman believes that the test ground will help a lot in ensuring that these connected and automated cars become a game changer as far as efficiency, energy, accessibility and all in all, safety are concerned.
The facility will test two major types of technologies. Connected cars – these are cars that talk to each other or to other infrastructure, commonly known as V2I or V2V – and varying automation levels, up to cars that are fully self-driven.
Mcity is open to any person who wishes to test their futuristic modes of mobility. However, it is a lot better to be a partner with MTC or be affiliated to the University of Michigan for you will get priority over other non-connected groups. The good news for Mcity is that while already $10 million has been channeled to the facility thanks to funds from MDOT and U-M, MTC will still receive funds of $1 million from each of the 15 companies it is working with on this project over the next three years.