Ford first to test self-driving cars in Michigan's fake city

The University of Michigan recently built the 32-acre "Mcity" proving ground so that automakers could test autonomous vehicles with zero risk to the public. Since the faux city is in US car country (and far from Silicon Valley rivals like Google), it's only fitting that it was broken in by a small Dearborn outfit: Ford. The automaker tackled Mcity in its latest Fusion Hybrid self-driving car, freshly equipped with four LiDAR sensors for real-time 3D mapping. While Ford has tested its vehicles extensively on public roads, "every mile driven [at Mcity] represents 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events," said U of M professor Ryan Eustice.

For example, Ford said that Mcity's simulated urban environment allows them to test dangerous scenarios that can be done on public roads, like running red lights. The facility is also equipped with cameras mounted high over intersections, all types of signs, a construction barrier, various pavement surfaces and other taxing scenarios (see the video below). Ford plans to use the facility to accelerate its testing of its driver assist features and make them feasible for production. While the company already offers automatic features like self-parking, it has yet to build any vehicles with a semi-autonomous "autopilot" like its much smaller rival, Tesla.