The University of Michigan will govern a new "city" on its North Campus. The only rule: no drivers allowed.
Big Blue is breaking ground on its "Mobility Transformation Facility," or MTF for short. The high-tech complex will be 32 acres of fake city streets with one purpose: testing autonomous cars. (Via Google)
It'll feature everything you hate about driving: obstacles in the middle of the street, congested traffic on a four-lane highway, construction cones and pesky pedestrians who presumably won't use the crosswalk. (Via University of Michigan)
Michigan assistant professor of computer science and engineering Edwin Olson says: "[We'll] actually be writing code for the test facility. We'll be able to trigger tricky traffic signal timings, or a pedestrian stepping into the intersection at just the wrong time, for example." (Via University of Michigan)
So why build the city now? The project's leaders say in most states and cities, there are no regulations in place for testing self-driving vehicles, which makes it hard to observe how they'd react in the wild.
Currently there are a two states making the shift toward driverless cars: Nevada and recently California, which adopted self-driving laws in May. Current regulations only allow for manufacturer testing at the moment. (Via KCBS)
However, what will be unique about Michigan's facility is its networked infrastructure.
Researchers explain they plan to create a city in which all autonomous cars operate together to achieve a safer and more efficient driving experience. This is opposed to individual cars operating by their particular sensors. (Via CNN)
Essentially, researchers want to prove their benefits with competitors working together. Imagine a Google self-driving car telling Audi or Tesla's driverless model, "Stay on your own side!"
The University of Michigan expects the project to be completed by fall 2014. It also plans to produce its driverless car network and install the system in Ann Arbor by 2021.