Testing automated vehicles is a risky process, which is why Michigan’s Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan have joined forces to create a 30-acre urban environment that will be used specifically for testing driverless cars. If automated vehicles are to becomes the norm, then testing these new technologies in a realistic off-roadway environment is an essential step before they hit the real roads.
The test facility has been designed for the sole purpose of evaluating the capabilities of connected and automated vehicles and systems. It will occupy 30 acres at Michigan University’s North Campus Research Complex, where the Mobility Transformation Facility (MTF) will simulate the broad range of complexities vehicles encounter in urban and suburban environments.
This will include approximately three lane-miles of roads, complete with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, street lights, and obstacles such as construction barriers.
“We will actually be writing code for the test facility,” Edwin Olson, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering, said in a statement. “We’ll be able to trigger tricky traffic signal timings, or a pedestrian stepping into the intersection at just the wrong time, for example.
There will also be other ‘risks’ that are common within cities, such as crosswalks, hydrants and green areas. Buildings will also be ‘moveable’ so as to change the layout of the area if necessary.
“It reminds me of when I was a young boy and used to watch The Jetsons,” said David Munson, the Robert. J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “We’re not doing flying cars here, but I think we’re doing something more important … and almost as impressive.” Current plans call for the facility be completed this Fall.