Opening this week, Mcity is a completely artificial village for self-driving cars, bringing the future of automobiles back to Michigan, the historical home of Motor City. Taking lessons from military testing facilities like Gravesend in England or Yodaville in the US, the complex is made to simulate a wide variety of conditions.
Featuring 32 acres of roads, intersections, sidewalks, streetlights, signals and building facades, Mcity is part of a statewide effort to advance connected technologies and test autonomous vehicles. More than a simulated combination of urban and suburban environments in their ideal forms, these experimental grounds also incorporate stress-testing defects like graffiti and faded lane markings as well as different street terrains, tunnels, roundabouts and multi-lane freeways on a combination of pavement, cobblestones, gravel, grass and dirt.
Given that all crashes to date involving autonomous cars have been caused by human error, it is critical not only to test the vehicles themselves but also the people they will interact with on the road. In addition to its proximity to Detroit, a key benefit of the Ann Arbor area is the varied weather in the area, with everything from hot humid midsummer days to serious rain, snow and hail in the winter. The test area can be reconfigured on demand to simulate complex intersections, blind corners and other real-world challenges.
The project represents a $10,000,000 private/public partnership between the University of Michigan, local governments and various industries, including but also beyond regional and international automotive powerhouses (Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Toyota but also State Farm, Verizon, and Xerox).
“We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility,” said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. “Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility.”
“In addition to Mcity, MTC has three on-roadway connected and automated vehicle deployments underway. With the help of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MTC is building on a nearly 3,000-vehicle connected technology project launched three years ago by the U-M Transportation Research Institute to create a major deployment of 9,000 connected vehicles operating across the greater Ann Arbor area. MTC is also partnering with industry and the Michigan Department of Transportation to put 20,000 connected vehicles on the road in Southeast Michigan. The third piece of the plan calls for deploying a 2,000-vehicle mobility service of connected and automated vehicles in Ann Arbor.”