U of Michigan Opens Test Track for Self-Driving Cars: Welcome to Mcity

By Phill Powell

The future of automobile transportation is self-driving cars. Welcome to Mcity, where the future gets road tested and perfected…

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Mcity could double for a movie set: Simulated store fronts and fake streets make up the city. (Image: Univ. of Michigan)

We’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan: home of the mighty University of Michigan. It’s a proud and massive school where much of today’s scientific and tech research gets performed. And now the campus features a testing facility for the new wave of self-driving cars.

All Roads Lead to Ann Arbor
Michigan is also home to Detroit. Known as the “motor city,” for many decades the city was home to automobile manufacturers like Ford and Pontiac.

For carmakers of every brand, all roads will now lead to Ann Arbor, where (located on 32 acres of U of Michigan campus property) “Mcity” is being operated by the Mobility Transformation Center.

For companies that need to test vehicles, Mcity is ideal: big, varied and true to real street conditions that autonomous vehicles will face once they are adapted for use in real traffic situations. Carmakers were even asked which features they’d like to see incorporated in Mcity’s design.

That’s what makes Mcity so amazingly realistic, and much like a Hollywood movie set. Not only does it contain streets and sidewalks and building facades, but there are also real challenges to the cars’ robotics and engineering, such as traffic signs flaked with mud, which could obscure a car camera’s ability to correctly “read” the sign, as well as streets covered with gravel and even banked up with snow (during winter months), which could trip up an autonomous vehicle’s navigation system.

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A map of Mcity highlights different testing areas. (Image: Univ. of Michigan)

Mcity also presents researchers with dangerous, real-world test situations, such as a street where a bus is unloading and one passenger suddenly darts into the path of the autonomous car. Will the machine be able to respond instantly to such split-second events? Thanks to Mcity, the answer will be yes.

U-M: Where Big Things Happen
The Mcity test facility is just the latest breakthrough technology project being worked on at the University of Michigan – where the EKG was invented and Dr. Jonas Salk’s historic polio vaccine was announced.

U-M has been a STEM leader for decades. In fact, the entire crews of both the Gemini 4 and Apollo 15 space missions were made up of Michigan grads!
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Mcity will test the capabilities of many types of vehicles, both autonomous and those driven by people. (Image: Univ. of Michigan)

That’s why Digital Media Academy is completely psyched about its U of Michigan program. At DMA’s Michigan U tech camps, kids and teens get plugged into today’s hottest tech subjects, surrounded by a fabled college campus where greatness is a given and the pursuit of excellence is encouraged.