Mcity: A Town Built Just for Cars

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Photo Credit:University of Michigan

At first sight, Mcity near Ann Arbor, Michigan looks just like any other U.S. town or city. However, look closer and you will notice that the buildings are merely facades and the sidewalks, eerily empty. In fact, the only things you will encounter are cars zipping around, many with no humans at the helm. Welcome to the world's first car city - a 32-acre vehicle haven created by the University of Michigan to test new automotive technology.

Among the new technologies that will be tested in this unique city is automated communications - either from vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to traffic infrastructure (V2I) or vehicle to pedestrian (V2P). Yes, that means future cars will be able to "converse" with other cars, pedestrians or cyclists, and even traffic lights.

Image Credit: University of Michigan

Researchers hope that such communication will help avoid unnecessary and often fatal accidents. For example, if a car runs a red light, a message to the traffic signal could delay the red light across, from turning green for a few seconds. This simple action would help prevent a major collision. Similarly, communication about an upcoming cyclist or pedestrian would alert the driver and perhaps even the vehicle, causing it to brake automatically.

Though these are certainly cool, the most cutting-edge technology that will be tested at Mcity is automated or driverless cars. While several states including California and Michigan allow testing of driverless cars on regular streets, they require a human inside to take control if necessary. At Mcity, the cars can truly be autonomous.

Photo Credit: University of Michigan

This means that they can be tested to make the right decisions when faced with unexpected hurdles like identifying road signs covered with graffiti or obscured in some other way. The vehicles will also be subjected to obstructions like construction roadblocks as well as other situations that require human decision-making.

Of course, a driverless car's success in a simulated city is no guarantee of its performance in the real world that is filled with irrational human drivers. As Google discovered, a logical program that abides by the rules of the road is not always sufficient. For example, while the driverless car was "taught" the regulations of a four-way stop, it did not know to inch forward to indicate its intention of being the next one to leave. As a result, the Google cars ended up spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get across four-way stops. While they have been reprogrammed now, a glitch like this would have never been discovered in Mcity's logical, human-free environment.

Photo Credit: University of Michigan

Nevertheless, given that all the main car manufacturers like General Motors, Honda, and Ford, are building autonomous vehicles, laboratories like Mcity are crucial to safely test the revolutionary technology.

Resources: wired.com, arstechnica.com,umich.edu

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139 Comments
  • alphadog
    alphadogabout 1 year
    I played a game exactly like that place
    • alphadog
      alphadogabout 1 year
      I don't want to live there and I don't like cars🚙 I like bikes🚴🏻‍♀️
      • gold3nglare
        gold3nglareabout 1 year
        I wouldn't want to live there. Think of all the pollution! No thanks, that town is not for me. Be mindful of what you do to the Earth, that's what I say! Be kind to the Earth, for we do not OWN it, we are simply borrowing it for life. Think about the kids. The kids should have a chance at the same life you did. No pollution, plenty of trees, and ice caps that aren't as melted.
      • HummerLoverover 2 years
        They should make a system called HPilot which allows the driver to do hands free driving, so the hummer knows what to do. The driver can also set coordinates for where to go by using there words! If you want to go to shoprite, you have to say "Navigate ShopRite." It's that simple!
      • Socoolabout 3 years
        I love cars i even play a car game
        • Hdhdhdover 3 years
          They should add Honda Pilot
          • ethanover 3 years
            cooool
            • Djalmost 4 years
              Cj so cool
              • hurricanehater7
                hurricanehater7almost 4 years
                I like cars
                • mambo-913
                  mambo-913over 4 years
                  cool