There is a new city located on the University of Michigan North Campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan called M City. This city is very similar to any other as it has roads, highways, traffic circles, tunnels, a bridge and even pedestrians. However, there is one major difference between M City and all other cities – it is not real. In fact, it was actually created as a testing ground for self-driving vehicles. Therefore, the buildings are only facades, the residents are robotic and the traffic jams are simulated.
M City was designed and developed by the University of Michigan’s interdisciplinary Mobility Transformation Center, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Transportation. It is a 32-acre mini-metropolis that cost about $10 million to create. The test city celebrated its official opening on July 20, 2015.
Read on to learn more about M City and how it has the potential to help automakers build better and more advanced autonomous vehicles.
M City Meant to Accelerate the Market for Autonomous Technology
Automotive experts believe that autonomous technology will be very well-received by consumers. This is essentially why M City was designed and built—in order to accelerate the process and get self-driving cars on the road as quickly as possible. In fact, professionals in auto careers believe that driverless vehicles will actually grace our roads sometime within the next five years.
According to Boston Consulting Group, by 2015 the market for autonomous technology will reach approximately $42 billion. Additionally, semi-autonomous vehicles that are capable of parking themselves and operate in auto-pilot mode will become very popular in 2017.
Check out this video for brief overview of M City:
Why the Auto Industry is Not Testing Self-Driving Cars on Actual Roads
Up until the launch of M City, auto manufacturers were testing their self-driving cars on public roads. While testing in public areas did help companies evaluate their autonomous vehicles, experts say that M City is a far better alternative, since it is a controlled environment. Additionally, any driving situation can be continuously created and recreated.
Says Peter Sweatman, head of the Transportation Research Institute, “If you’re out on the public roadways, certainly all kinds of really unusual things will arise, but they’re only going to arise once. We like the idea of creating challenging situations that we can reproduce as many times as we want.”
For instance, since all of the pedestrians in M City are robotic, they can be programmed to unexpectedly step in front of oncoming traffic. This particular scenario will allow automakers to test whether or not their autonomous vehicles will react accordingly. And if the cars do not react well, auto technicians will make the necessary adjustments and the scene can be recreated for further testing.
Once an autonomous car has been thoroughly tested in M City and is deemed safe, it will be tested again on public roads.
Auto Manufacturers Have Already Begun Booking Testing Time
M City has already been sponsored by a range of auto manufacturers who would like access to the grounds in order to test their self-driving vehicles. Such companies include GM, Ford and Toyota. These companies will be among the first to use the track, since they are paying $1 million over the next three years.
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