Michigan’s Department of Transportation, the University of Michigan, and 13 companies are pitching in on the $6.5 million, 30-acre testing ground.
Self-driving cars are the way of the future, no bones about it. From Tesla’s recent statements on driverless cars, to efforts made by Google, soon you’ll be sitting in your ride (hopefully not asleep) as it drives you to work.
And Michigan seems to agree — an important factor, since the state is home to America’s three major auto manufacturers. The Wolverine State is set to help push self-driving car tech forward, as its Department of Transportation embarks on a $6.5 million, 30-acre testing facility.
What’s being constructed is essentially a ghost town, set on the north edge of Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan flagship campus. The test town is being built by the Michigan DoT, the aforementioned university’s Mobility Transformation Center, and 13 private-sector companies. Some of the names involved include Bosch, Econolite, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Xerox. Ford, GM, and Toyota are well known, for sure, while Bosch is a major car part manufacturer, and Econolite builds traffic control equipment. Xerox makes photocopiers…so there’s that (kidding, of course). [Update: The full list of non-government entities involved: Delphi, Denso, Econolite, Ford, GM, Honda, Iteris, Nissan, Bosch, State Farm, Toyota, Verizon, Xerox]
While the test range will include everything you would expect in a driving test environment (streets, traffic lights, turns, etc.) the facility will be largely automated. This means robotic construction crews, pedestrians popping out from behind parked cars, and other average day road hazards.
The primary technology set to be tested on the range will be car-to-car communication, which will eventually allow cars to maintain distance between one another, even if the make and model differs.