Michigan aims to lead the world in autonomous driving technology

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 23 Jul 2015

HUGE COMPLEX: The University of Michigan's Mcity test environment for connected and driverless vehicle covers 32 acres.

The University of Michigan has formally opened a 32-acre playground especially for the development of self-driving and connected cars. 

Called Mcity, it is the world's first environment of its kind dedicated to the development of the technologies that will make self-driving cars a real-world reality, and is a partnership between the university and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). 

"We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility," said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Centre. 

"Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility." 

The site, which cost US$10mil (RM37.87mil) to develop, will play host to connected and self-driving cars and features everything from intersections and traffic lights to blocks of buildings and sidewalks in a bid to effectively mimic the most challenging and unpredictable real-world inner-city driving conditions.

AUTHENTIC: Mcity features intersections, buildings and traffic lights. – AFP/University of Michigan

There is even graffiti on the street signs in order to challenge traffic sign recognition systems. 

A key target of the venture is to put a fleet of driverless and connected cars on the roads of Ann Arbor, Michigan by 2021 but another is also to highlight the importance of Michigan as a hotbed of innovation. 

As cars become more technologically advanced and companies such as Google start to enter the fray, it's easy to forget that Silicon Valley is not the automotive research and development capital of the US. 


Thanks to its pivotal role in the development of the original mass-market automobile, it's Michigan and as the car goes through its biggest revolution since the internal combustion engine, the state wants to retain its world-leading status. 

As well as academic and legislative partners, the Mcity project is backed by a veritable who's who of the automotive world that includes Honda, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Toyota as well as chipmaker Qualcomm. 

"Mcity represents an important partnership between government at all levels, private industry and academia," said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. – AFP Relaxnews

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