Automotive

Mcity opens as a first-of-its-kind sandbox for autonomous and connected vehicles

Mcity opens as a first-of-its-...
In Mcity, these conspicuously fake buildings are a part of a bigger connected proving ground for autonomous vehicles
In Mcity, these conspicuously fake buildings are a part of a bigger connected proving ground for autonomous vehicles
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An aerial view of Mcity shows some of its varied road surfaces, including a large roundabout (the M) and a freeway "onramp"
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An aerial view of Mcity shows some of its varied road surfaces, including a large roundabout (the M) and a freeway "onramp"
In Mcity, these conspicuously fake buildings are a part of a bigger connected proving ground for autonomous vehicles
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In Mcity, these conspicuously fake buildings are a part of a bigger connected proving ground for autonomous vehicles
Mcity provides a sandbox of urban, suburban, and rural roads for autonomous vehicles to navigate and provide data to researchers
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Mcity provides a sandbox of urban, suburban, and rural roads for autonomous vehicles to navigate and provide data to researchers
A "downtown" area in Mcity provides blind corners for autonomous and connected vehicles to navigate without the fear of accident
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A "downtown" area in Mcity provides blind corners for autonomous and connected vehicles to navigate without the fear of accident
Mcity provides numerous types of roads for autonomous vehicles to navigate, including this large roundabout area
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Mcity provides numerous types of roads for autonomous vehicles to navigate, including this large roundabout area
Mcity includes many realistic challenges of driving that an autonomous car might face, including construction and unusual road layouts
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Mcity includes many realistic challenges of driving that an autonomous car might face, including construction and unusual road layouts
This aerial view of Mcity's autonomous vehicle sandbox highlights the north/south stretch of road for researchers to test GPS accuracy
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This aerial view of Mcity's autonomous vehicle sandbox highlights the north/south stretch of road for researchers to test GPS accuracy
MCity not only has realistic features that an autonomous car might see on the road, but it also allows researchers to experiment with V2V and V2I connected systems, both highlighted in this map
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MCity not only has realistic features that an autonomous car might see on the road, but it also allows researchers to experiment with V2V and V2I connected systems, both highlighted in this map

Mcity at the University of Michigan is defined by over 28 acres (11 hectares) of fake buildings, purposefully defaced road signs, and pedestrians pointedly standing in roadways. While this could tax any human driver, the Mcity simulation is designed to test the university's fleet of connected and autonomous vehicles as they interact with an everchanging research facility that's the first of its kind.

Opened yesterday, July 20, Mcity allows researchers to test new technologies, such as its recent 3D-printed autonomous car, in a dedicated but controlled environment before pushing out vehicles to the streets of Ann Arbor or beyond. Unlike public streets, Mcity's movable building facades, changeable traffic signal networks, and full control over things such as lane width allows a fully flexible sandbox.

Some other features that have been built into the "city's" 5 miles (8 km) of lanes include a 1,000-ft (304-m) road that's located precisely north/south to test GPS, a simulated downtown area with blind corners, and realistic materials that include old signs and graffitied materials.

Everything that a car may encounter has been included: 120 road signs (how many could you actually name?), numerous road materials, pedestrians, bikes, roundabouts, tunnels, freeway entrances, rural train crossings, and the universal constant, construction.

An aerial view of Mcity shows some of its varied road surfaces, including a large roundabout (the M) and a freeway "onramp"
An aerial view of Mcity shows some of its varied road surfaces, including a large roundabout (the M) and a freeway "onramp"

It's hard to look at the cartoony flat buildings and not think of an amusement park, but Mcity represents part of a plan to roll out autonomous vehicles from its controlled boundaries to the (real) city by 2021. Partners representing all stakeholders in a connected road landscape were involved, including car manufacturers, lawmakers, data management hardware and software companies, telecommunication firms, and even the companies that make traffic signaling technology.

While data from Google suggests that accidents with autonomous cars generally are the fault of (the other) human driver, there are other reasons why researchers may want a custom playground for these vehicles.

A fully connected and autonomous vehicle landscape relies on wireless communication not only among all the cars on the road, but also from vehicles to the infrastructure such as traffic control systems, and information from pedestrians, via mobile phones. This currently doesn't exist in the average city as such, yet in Mcity it can.

In the video below, the director of the program provides an introduction while you tour parts of Mcity.

Source: University of Michigan, Mobility Transformation Center

Mcity Overview

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