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It feels strange to stand in the middle of a fully-functional intersection and not worry about traffic, but you can do it at the connected and automated vehicle test facility at the University of Michigan’s Mcity. At first glance, the McityTest Facility looks like a small, abandoned town complete with a roundabout, building facades, red light intersections, sidewalk benches, and even a strip of highway. The only thing missing is cars.

Although it may look abandoned, the Mcity Testing Facility has much to offer. It opened four years ago as the world’s first purpose-built, controlled environment for testing the potential of connected and automated vehicles and technologies.

Bell Camera at MCity Test Facility

The test facility is operated by Mcity, a U-M-led public-private partnership that brings together industry, government and the U-M research community to advance connected and automated vehicles. About 60 companies representing a broad range of industries – automotive, communications, insurance, traffic infrastructure, and more – invest as much as $1 million each over three years as members of Mcity. Much of that money is used to fund research projects studying not only advanced mobility technologies, but the potential impact on traffic safety, the environment, and society overall.

“We’re going out and finding companies that want to collaborate together,” said Tyler Worman, Mcity data architect.

Mcity member companies help select the research projects that are funded. Research topics include sensors, connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and more. Researchers use exciting tools such as augmented reality to broadcast different traffic scenarios within the test facility.

With the autonomous vehicle industry advancing, Mcity Lab Director Greg McGuire believes the Mcity Test Facility is at the forefront of the trend.

“This is a trend in the development of more and more complex, and automated, and eventually perhaps autonomous systems,” McGuire said. “You need a place where you can really prove out your research and prove out your development before you put vehicles in a place where they’re interacting with people.”

The Mcity Test Facility’s capabilities continue to grow with the addition of more radios, a functional rail crossing, and new camera equipment to the infrastructure. The newest addition to Mcity’s equipment is a GRIDSMART System, complete with two GRIDSMART Bell Cameras and a GS2 Processor.

GRIDSMART’s Regional Sales Manager, Chuck Wilson, and Field Application Engineer, Chris Robson assisted with the installation.

McGuire says Mcity’s most important goals are to help produce a set of standards to test highly automated vehicles, and provide test repeatability. Mcguire explains that Mcity is perfect for testing scenarios “when you need real world, but you need control over the environment, or for safety or just test repeatability, you need to be in a place where there aren’t humans.”

Mcity will ultimately help achieve the overarching goal for all advanced mobility vehicle testing which is to feel confident in the safe operation of new technologies before allowing them on public roads.

“This is something we’re doing with our industry partners right now,” McGuire said. “And this is actually where the GRIDSMART technology will play a role.”

To learn more about Mcity, visit mcity.umich.edu.

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