Called MCity, the $10 million test facility is designed to answer some of the outstanding questions that driverless vehicles still raise: Will they be able to drive on poorly mapped, gravel roads? Will they be able to spot pedestrians in poor visual conditions? How do they handle tunnels and overpasses? Can we end traffic jams if connected cars talk to each other?
The facility is a partnership between the university and auto companies such as Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and a handful of other companies interested in the technology, including Verizon, State Farm, and Qualcomm.
At the moment, there are no entirely automated vehicles at the 32-acre facility (for the moment, it's using "connected" cars), but fully automated activities will start soon.
Though there are a handful of states, most notably California and Nevada, that allow driverless cars on their streets, there hasn't yet been a replica city dedicated entirely to testing driverless cars. No one is going to live at MCity, but it does look just like a suburban town, complete with sidewalks, construction obstacles, streetlights, fake buildings, and in the future, fake, robotic pedestrians.
The goal is to test out some of this tech and, within a couple years, to put 2,000 connected, automated cars on the streets of Ann Arbor.