With all the talk surrounding Google’s self-driving cars — as cute as they are — questions still remain. For one, how will these automated vehicles handle unexpected road conditions, traffic signals, or law-ignoring pedestrians?
Just like us, the University of Michigan’s Engineering College is hungry for answers, which is why the organization has plans to build out an automated vehicle testing facility this fall.
The facility will be operated by U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center in Southeast Michigan.
But what will this city, built solely for the testing of new technology, look like? Truth be told, it won’t be much different from any regular city. After all, the whole point is to test what driverless cars would be like in the wild.
There will be merge lanes, stoplights, roundabouts, intersections, road signs, a railroad crossing, construction areas, building facades, and eventually, the college of Engineering will include a mechanical pedestrian to watch out for.
The idea is to ensure that driverless cars work as a networked group as opposed to individually operating based only on their own sensors.
“The type of testing we’re talking about doing – it’s not possible to do today in the university infrastructure,” said Ryan Eustice, an associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering. “Every time a vehicle comes around the loop, it can hit something unusual. That will give us a leg up on getting these vehicles mature and robust and safe.”
It’s not just new, driverless cars that could use a turn or two in the testing facility. Even newer model cars, which use automated driving features like automatic braking, can also benefit from spending some time on the course.