Transportation developers at the University Of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., announced this week the opening of a small (but fake) town solely for the purpose of testing vehicle functions. But not just any vehicle functions, vehicles that drive themselves. No humans necessary.
"We've been a world leader in innovation, especially in terms of mobility," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a press release announcing the town aptly named Mcity. "We put the world on wheels. We transformed how the world moved. Michigan is uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in mobility, and the University of Michigan's new Mcity will play a critical role in that future."
And futuristic it is.
The U-M Mobility Transformation Center in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) created the 32-acre environment that simulates both rural and urban spaces. They built it to test the new technology in as many real-life scenarios as possible.
Per the press release, many of the cars in this town will drive themselves, be able to recognize obstacles — like pedestrians — as well as other cars with the same technology.
"The types of technologies that will be tested at Mcity include connected technologies — vehicles talking to other vehicles or to the infrastructure, commonly known as V2V or V2I — and various levels of automation all the way up to fully autonomous, or driverless vehicles," Susan Carney, U-M MTC marketing and communications director told A Plus.
But the fact that these cars exist in the first place isn't the coolest part ...
Mcity developers plan to actually put these driverless cars on the road in Ann Arbor by 2021.
According to the press release, about $10 million has been invested in the pseudo-community, which began construction last year. The goal to revolutionize the movement of "people and goods worldwide."
Michigan is the home of the automotive industry in the U.S. so it's fitting this will be the birthplace of the first civilian-operated driverless cars. But they're not the first to start acting on the idea, just the first to create an entire simulated town dedicated to testing them.
According to Carney, the space in Ann Arbor was created to test the cars in the safest environment possible.
And it seems the government is starting to take theses projects seriously. Despite the rough testing process, the push behind the new technology comes from data that suggests accidents would reduce significantly from the vehicles and lawmakers are finding ways to ensure even more safety.
According to the Washington Post, lawmakers rolled out a bill called the SPY Car Act this week, "which would require certain commitments from car manufacturers who want to build driverless or connected cars."
The future of automobiles is here.