It’s nice to see Detroit getting busy again.
Engineers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have started construction on a simulated city center that will be used to test partially automated and fully driverless cars.
The patent-pending Mobility Transformation Facility will take up 32 acres on U-M’s north campus, and be administered by a partnership of auto industry leaders and university researchers.
The idea is to provide a real-world simulation of dense city traffic for the next generation of partially and fully automated vehicles. In addition to a section of a four-lane highway, the test center will have merge lanes, road signs, stoplights, intersections, construction barrels, roundabouts, a railroad crossing, building facades and even — eventually — mechanical cyclists and pedestrians.
“We will actually be writing code for the test facility,” said U-M researcher Edwin Olson, on the Michigan Engineering project page. “We’ll be able to trigger tricky traffic signal timings, or a pedestrian stepping into the intersection at just the wrong time, for example.”
It’s not just hypothetical far-future tinkering, either. The public/private Mobility Transformation Center hopes to enable a automated mobility system in downtown Ann Arbor by 2021. The concept is to create an environment where all moving vehicles, with drivers or without, are networked and communicating with each other.
No word on whether the research team will try to simulate a national basketball championship, when 20,000 drunken undergrads spill onto the streets. But I’m sure there’s an app for that.
Credit: Michigan Engineering