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MCity opens its roads to researchers

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan celebrates the completion of "MCity" in a grand opening ceremony on Monday.

MCity is a 32-acre autonomous vehicle test track, designed to resemble a real city and suburb, with stoplights, artificial pedestrians that can be launched suddenly in front of a driverless car, and movable buildings.

Researchers will be able to conduct a wide range of studies at the track. Edwin Olson, a professor of electrical engineering, plans to test a fleet of prototype autonomous Uber vehicles.

He thinks MCity will yield more valuable data on autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles than the fleet of autonomous vehicles that Google has driving around on real roads.

"To get to test coverage in the real world would take thousands and thousands of kilometers," says Olson.  "But in a relatively short amount of time, every time the vehicle (in MCity) goes around the block, it's posed with a new, really tricky scenario."

The total investment in MCity was $10 million, with $3.5 million coming from the University of Michigan, $3 million from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the balance from donated equipment and services from industry partners and other private sources.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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