Detroit to get driverless testing ‘city’

While the UK is set to have its big driverless car trials in the next few months in a number of different cities, the US is also planning to test some piloted vehicles. One place where it’s going to be concentrated is in Detroit, where a new miniature city is being created just for that purpose. It’s called the M-City, a small 32 acre plot of land filled with turns, buildings, roundabouts and crossings, all designed to give driverless cars a difficult time. It will let the car makers and software designers see how their cars behave in certain situations without having to put them on a real road with too many people.

There will be a few people around though as M City is located on the North Campus on the University of Michigan. However how much those people will interact with the automated technology is unknown at this point. Presumably over time it will increase though, as the plan with M City is to lead to an expanded automated car trial run in Michigan by 2021.

Of course, much like the UK trial of automated vehicles, the M City development won’t just be about testing the function of the vehicles, it will also be testing a multitude of other factors that will really come into play as driverless cars begin to hit the roads around the world. For example, how will human factors like acceptability come into play? How will human drivers react when one of these cars overtakes them for the first time? Other aspects like the telecommunications technology required for such vehicles will also be tested, as well as the potential need for new urban planning initiatives, insurance policy tweaks and maybe even new legislation to govern the use and manufacture of such vehicles.

Coming together to make this happen will be a number of different organisations and automakers, including Google and staff and students at the University of Michigan. It should lead to a deployed network of interconnected vehicles in Southeast Michigan within the next few years – if all goes well.

Chances are if all goes well at M City, other hubs of driverless car research will be created around the US and similarly so in the UK if all goes well here. This will hopefully lead to an accelerated development and rollout of automated car technology, which has a laundry list of benefits. Not only will it allow us to be lazier and get picked up and dropped off by our cars – no more parking – but it could rid us of the need to own a car altogether, could save millions of barrels of fuel every year, cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and make the commute to work a lot less stressful.

Watch this space for news on M City as it develops.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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