Mcity: The future of connected and autonomous vehicle research
The University of Michigan opened Mcity, a 32-acre outdoor research lab for testing out the future of automotive technology in June 2015. Mcity simulates an urban environment for University of Michigan researchers, car makers, and technology suppliers so they can try out ideas in real-world conditions without the risks that would come on actual public streets.
Mcity features a variety of roads and streets, including a small section of freeway, a little downtown Main Street, an underpass, gravel and brick-paved roads, roundabouts, plus plenty of traffic signals and intersections. The whole lab is also packed with networked sensors to collect data on tests conducted on its streets.
Michigan should remain the birthplace of automotive tech
The intent behind Mcity is best summed up by Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich): Michigan—not Silicon Valley—should be at the vanguard of automotive technology development. Nonetheless, plenty of tech firms including Qualcomm, Verizon, and Xerox; traditional automotive tech firms like Bosch and DENSO; and actual car makers appeared for the grand opening of Mcity.
Much of the tech at Mcity was aimed at improving road safety. More than 450 pedestrians died in vehicle accidents in the US in 2013. According to Sen. Peters, the National Transportation Safety Board thinks that self-driving cars could cut those fatalities by 80 percent, but realistically that technology is still quite far from car showrooms. A more immediate benefit is going to come from vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, as well as related solutions that will communicate with traffic infrastructure (V2I) and pedestrians (V2P).
V2V Communications Mandated by 2017
Early this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it would mandate V2V for new cars and light trucks, with rules expected to be published later this year in order to be implemented by 2017. V2V uses a 5.9GHz wireless communication protocol called Dedicated Short Range Communications, or DSRC, part of the 802.11p wireless standard. V2V-equipped cars will communicate to each other, alerting drivers—or their cars—to hazards in their path.
Not just V2X
Some other tech on display were solutions to other traffic problems. Verizon is trying out a way of calculating drivers’ actual road use in Oregon with LTE-enabled gadgets that connect to a car’s OBD-II. And Xerox has a system that uses lasers and near-infrared sensors to detect whether a vehicle using an high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane actually has the correct number of people in it:
For more, see the ARS Techica article.