ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan has opened Mcity, the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars.
“We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility,” said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. “Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility.”
Mcity was designed and developed by U-M’s interdisciplinary MTC, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“MTC and Mcity highlight the interdisciplinary strengths of U-M,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “The initiative also demonstrates the great potential in working with partners outside the university to address compelling issues of broad impact.”
The facility also underscores Michigan’s emergence as a leader in advanced mobility, building on the state’s position as the global center of automotive research and development for more than a century. Today, Michigan is home to 375 automotive research centers, and has the highest concentration of industrial and mechanical engineers in the United States.
“We’ve been a world leader in innovation, especially in terms of mobility,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “We put the world on wheels. We transformed how the world moved. Michigan is uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in mobility, and the University of Michigan’s new Mcity will play a critical role in that future.”
Mcity is a 32-acre simulated urban and suburban environment that includes a network of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, streetlights, building facades, sidewalks and construction obstacles. It is designed to support rigorous, repeatable testing of new technologies before they are tried out on public streets and highways.
In particular, Mcity allows researchers to simulate the environments where connected and automated vehicles will be most challenged. Even seemingly minor details a vehicle might encounter in urban and suburban settings have been incorporated into Mcity, such as road signs defaced by graffiti and faded lane markings.
The types of technologies that will be tested at the facility include connected technologies – vehicles talking to other vehicles or to the infrastructure, commonly known as V2V or V2I – and various levels of automation all the way up to fully autonomous, or driverless vehicles.