University is building a fake city to test driverless cars

A new test facility for driverless cars is expected to open this fall.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

The University of Michigan announced that it's building a 32 acre simulated city center to test real-world driving conditions that automated cars will face in urban environments.

The first car to use the facility for testing is Ford's automated Fusion Hybrid. Michigan engineers are working with Ford to develop sensors and mapping technology for the car.

"We will actually be writing code for the test facility," said Edwin Olson, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering, in a press release. "We'll be able to trigger tricky traffic signal timings, or a pedestrian stepping into the intersection at just the wrong time, for example." The facility will also be equipped with "merge lanes, stoplights, intersections, roundabouts, road signs, a railroad crossing, building facades, construction barrels and eventually a mechanical pedestrian."

The driverless car testing facility is part of the university's Mobility Transformation Center, a public/private partnership that launched last year. Among the first private partners of the program are automakers Ford, General Motors, and Toyota, along with Bosch, Econolite, and Xerox.

According to the researchers working on the project, "such testing is a vital step in making sure these advanced vehicles can operate safely in the real world."

The facility is expected to be be ready for use in the fall. Around the same time Google is hoping to have 100 of its newly unveiled driverless cars on public roads.

Photo: Ford

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