University of Michigan will open fake city to test self-driving cars this fall

The University of Michigan will open the doors to its unique Mobility Transformation Facility this fall to test automated and wirelessly connected vehicles. The 32-acre research center will give researchers at the school access to roadways, a four-lane highway, city streets with road signs and street lights, roundabouts and all manner of road surfaces. For a dash of fun, pop-up pedestrians and mechanized bikes add a bit of motion to the mix to simulate any of a million worst-case scenarios. Street lights, for example, could be programmed to turn completely off and bicycles could unexpectedly roll out from between parked cars.

All these made-up hazards and features will be put to the test to ensure every eventuality has been checked off the list to make this tech as safe as can be. Research will initially be carried out with a Ford Fusion Hybrid as the test vehicle of choice, but General Motors and Toyota are also involved so expect toys from them too. The staff hopes that when armed with the knowledge gleaned from the facility, they'll be set for a working system ear-marked for debut in Ann Arbor by 2021. Other lofty goals include three deployments of up to 20,000 automated cars across southeast Michigan aimed at observing how people like you and me will get on with self-driving cars like these.