'Test city' opens for autonomous cars

July 28, 2015 // By Rich Pell
The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) has officially opened a simulated city that will be used for developing and testing driverless and connected vehicles.

Located on the university's campus, the $10 million, 32-acre outdoor environment - called Mcity - features life-sized building facades, various surfaced roads, intersections, signs, and even simulated pedestrians. The environment is designed to allow automakers and others in the industry a controlled environment in which to test connected and automated vehicle technologies.

In an attempt to reflect real-world conditions as much as possible, Mcity even includes details such as faded lane markings and partially obscured signs. In addition to testing the physical navigational capabilities of connected vehicles, the environment includes capabilities for testing car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications.

First announced in May of last year, Mcity was designed and developed by the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation. General Motors, Ford, Bosch, Honda, Nissan and Toyota are among companies that also helped back the project.

"There are many challenges ahead as automated vehicles are increasingly deployed on real roadways," says Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. "Mcity is a safe, controlled, and realistic environment where we are going to figure out how the incredible potential of connected and automated vehicles can be realized quickly, efficiently and safely."