University of Michigan builds test town for connected cars

Driverless vehicles are the talk of the automotive industry after busy CES and Detroit motor shows, but testing them in a safe environment, that can accurately replicate the challenges of road navigation, has been a challenge until now.

US education establishment, the University of Michigan, has released more information surrounding M-City, its ambitious project to create a detailed urban test area for driverless and connected vehicles.

U-M’s facility features roads with up to five lanes, intersections, roundabouts, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, bus facilities, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles like construction barriers.

“A revolution of mobility”

M City, a University of Michigan project in partnership with industry and government, is expected by Peter Sweatman, director of U-M's Mobility Transformation Center, to be a driving force for future connected cars.

"Connected and automated vehicle technology will usher in a revolution in the mobility of people and goods comparable to that sparked by the introduction of the automobile a century ago," he said.

"M City will allow us to rigorously test new approaches in a safe, controlled and realistic environment before we implement them on actual streets."

Automated ambition

The primary focus for the Mobility Transformation Center and its team of researchers is to implement a connected and automated mobility system on the streets of south-eastern Michigan by 2021.

It is a future deployment that will involve more than 20,000 cars, trucks and buses across south-eastern Michigan serving as testbeds for evaluating consumer behaviour and investigating market opportunities.

Now that construction of M City’s roads has been completed, Michigan’s Department of Transport expects the project to be entirely operational by spring this year before a formal opening in July.

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