Michigan is building a fake city to test automated cars


The University of Michigan will be truly ahead of the pack this fall as it opens up a new automated vehicle test facility on North Campus. Over the course of this summer, construction will be done on the patent-pending Mobility Transformation Facility, where all 32 acres of it will be a simulated city center that has its own four-lane highway to boot. Specially designed to help researchers test out just how automated and networked vehicles will respond to rare but dangerous traffic events and road conditions, this is a crucial step in ensuring that such vehicles will eventually operate safely in real world conditions.

With all the talk surrounding Google’s self-driving cars — as cute as they are — questions still remain. For one, how will these automated vehicles handle unexpected road conditions, traffic signals, or law-ignoring pedestrians? Just like us, the University of Michigan’s Engineering College is hungry for answers, which is why the organization has plans to build out an automated vehicle testing facility this fall. The facility will be operated by U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center in Southeast Michigan. But what will this city, built solely for the testing of new technology, look like? Truth be told, it won’t be much different from any regular city. After all, the whole point is to test what driverless cars would be like in the wild. There will be merge lanes, stoplights, roundabouts, intersections, road signs, a railroad crossing, construction areas, building facades, and eventually, the college of Engineering will include a mechanical pedestrian to watch out for.

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