ESD Members Check Out UM’s New Autonomous Car Testing Center

ANN ARBOR — Nearly 30 members of The Engineering Society of Detroit Thursday enjoyed a tour of the University of Michigan’s new Mobility Transformation Center.

Attached to UM’s longtime transportation safety study organization, the UM Transportation Research Institute, the new center will also include Mcity, a 13-acre proving ground for autonomous and connected vehicles.

Mcity is scheduled to open in July.

The $10 million M City will include four miles of roadways and streets. James R. Sayer, Ph.D., head of the human factors group at UMTRI, told the group that the roads will be striped and lined with removable tape road markings. That will allow the roads to be striped for different types of tests — and he said the city could even be switched around completely to allow for tests while driving on the left side of the road, as in the United Kingdom, India, Japan and other parts of Asia, parts of Africa, and Australia.

Included in Mcity will be the following real-world road features:

* Limited Access Freeway — vehicles will be able to enter and exit a “freeway-like” straightaway via both urban and rural style ramps. The freeway system will feature real-world elements like cable barriers, guardrails, impact attenuators, and a concrete barrier. The perimeter roads will allow vehciles to speed up as they enter the ramps, while providing a roadway network that will allow vehciles to continuously loop and circumnavigate Mcity.

* Traffic Circles and Roundabouts — Common in Europe and increasingly in Michigan, Mcity’s traffic circle will be accessible from simulated trunk line roads and urban streets. As an added challenge, the roundabout’s entrances are not at a precise 90-degree difference, and it is built into the side of a gentle hill, higher in elevation at one end than the other.

* Trunk line road — The western edge of Mcity features a typical state-owned M-numbered roadway. It will provide a railroad crossing with signals, bells and stop bars, as well as a cable barrier.

* Urban and suburban streets — Real-world conditions are simulated with crosswalks, sidewalks, ADA ramps, raised medians, street lights, intersections with traffic signals, tree shading, parallel and diagonal parking, a bus stop and taxi stand, and building facades that can be moved to different parts of the roads.

* Brick paver road — Using stamped concrete, a brick road is simulated.

* Gravel roads — Mcity will have both a straight and a meandering gravel road, complete with a rural railroad crossing.

The Mcity roads will also feature bridges, overhead freeway signs and a tunnel. A sign shop also carries a collection of road signs — many of them battered, worn and defaced by graffiti — that autonomous vehicles will have to learn to decipher.

Other upcoming ESD tours include an April 30 tour of the science behind Sanders & Morley Candy Makers Inc. and a May 14 tour of the technology behind Leader Dogs for the Blind.

For more information, visit www.esd.org.

More about Mcity at http://mtc.umich.edu/test-facility.

Here are photos of Thursday’s tour.

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