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In Detroit, Mcity wants to quickly track a future of driverless cars – Gigaom

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Driverless cars know our schedule well enough to get to the front door exactly when we need it, allowing us to work, read or even sleep while we safely commute – that’s is Silicon Valley’s automotive dream. Smart, autonomous, providing many source codes like fossil fuels.

Only, that can’t happen until the necessary technologies are fully tested – not in the lab but on the road and in real-world conditions. That is the new place Mcity come in.

Mcity racetrack - 02
While it looks like a Hollywood movie, above is a photo of Mcity’s test track for driverless cars.

Mcity is a highly realistic environment that includes dirt roads, worn asphalt, hidden corners, construction areas, pedestrians, even tunnels. MCiTY can be found not in Mountain View or Cupertino, but 30 miles west of Detroit, on the edge of the University of Michigan’s North Campus. It might look like a Hollywood plot, but it’s more than that.

Mcity opened last month at a cost of $ 10 million. It’s part of the university’s aggressive plan to make fully and semi-autonomous vehicles a reality in the short term, not for Google cars but for all of us. There’s also hope that even as the software corrode the car industry, most of the work that starts from nuts and bolts remains in and around Detroit.

James Sayer, implementation director of the University’s Mobile Transformation Center (MTC), told me: “There is very little research on how to integrate technical, economic, social, and policy considerations. to allow for a viable unmanned maneuvering system. Mcity, he added, was one of the first attempts to do this.

Sayer notes that Google’s unmanned vehicle tests aside that “we need to consider mobility as a complex system – not just vehicles”.

This means that Mcity isn’t just about cars. It’s a public-private partnership that will shape the coming integration between cars, computers, and big data. Registered auto companies, chip makers and telecommunications companies, some spent more than a million dollars to support the university’s efforts.

We could really be at the height of a transportation revolution. Radically improved commute times, radically improved safety and much-needed reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are within reach – thanks to driverless cars. Obviously, what is preventing this dream from becoming a reality is that the very technologies we hope to put into practice cannot be tested on the road and in the real world conditions that each of us faces every day. . This is only possible through rigorous testing, analysis, and demo of these technologies in the world’s only large-scale realistic road environment.

What happens when a child runs into the street? Or when bicyclists are in your turn lane? Or broken GPS? How easy for someone hack your car’s brake system? All of these have to be tested over and over again, in real-world conditions and not just by one side hoping to profit from their success.

A Mcity spokesperson will not confirm whether Google is involved in the project or not – Co-Founder of Google page Larry was a former student – but she told me they were checking out additional companies interested in testing their automotive technology. Honda, Qualcomm and Verizon have pledged. Expect others to follow suit.

Peter Sweatmen, Director of the University’s Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) said: “Testing new technologies in real off-road environments is an important step before a significant number of vehicles are High automation can be safely deployed on the real road.

With Mcity, a giant step can just be made.

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