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M City, Where Robots Rule The Roads

By raccars Published

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Over at the University of Michigan in the USA, you'll find a very unusual city. At first glance you could assume it's a terrifying vision of the future, one in which humans have been replaced by robots. But actually, M City is the first specifically designed controlled location for the testing and development of autonomous driving technologies.

Superficially, the buildings, highways and junctions look normal, but look closer and you'll find the pedestrians look a little odd - that's because they are robots... M City cost $6.5 million dollars, which has paid for environmental features, including 40 buildings - or facades - a roundabout, junctions, a tunnel, a bridge, gravel roads, street lights, construction areas, parked cars and pedestrian pavements. It occupies 32 acres of the North Campus Research Complex of Michigan University, offering about five miles of drivable road, with the usual traffic signs.

The simulated urban environment allows for the rigorous and controlled testing of driverless cars and new autonomous driving technologies in a realistic and safe location, before they are let loose on public roads. Research into how cars and infrastructure can be connected and interconnected also takes place at the site.

Great detail has been applied to constructing a realistic driving environment. Along with 'mechatronic pedestrians,' M City's challenges to autonomous driving technology include indistinct lane markings and road signs which have been graffiti-ed.

M City is part of a massive project studying the potential of autonomous and connected driving technologies. It will see 9,000 vehicles connected to each other on public roads around Ann Arbor, leading up to 20,000 connected vehicles around the Southeast Michigan area. Scientists at the university believe this research will be able to contribute a significant amount of knowledge to car makers working on these technologies, and will help to make our roads safer and our lives easier and more efficient. The implementation of driverless, connected vehicles on a large scale in our towns and cities, is expected to improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion, reduce emissions and allow a more efficient public transport system.

A number of partner companies are working with the university on the project, including the Michigan Department of Transportation, car makers and components suppliers, insurance firms, IT companies and traffic signal and traffic sensor makers. There is a long list of auto and tech firms hoping to use the soon to be completed facility, including General Motors, Toyota and Ford.

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