The University of Michigan’s “MCity” simulated urban driving environment has just started seeing its first patron – the Ford Motor Company – as the automaker goes about racking-up test mileage in its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle.
The University’s “MCity” is a virtual city within the school’s campus, replicating a diverse mix of real-world obstacles meant to mimic the sort of experience that an autonomous vehicle might encounter in the real world. According to a release from Ford, the U-M’s “MCity” features everything from street lights to crosswalks, to bike lanes, trees, hydrants, and even construction barriers, along with a mix of different driving surfaces: concrete, asphalt, bricks, and dirt.
In short, just about all conceivable real-world driving situations are represented within the 32-acre “MCity” environment. Says U-M Associate Professor Ryan Eustice: “The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor. Every mile driven there can represent 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events.”
To help the Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle in coping with the mixed bag of curveballs presented by “MCity,” the automaker has fitted the vehicle with an array of cameras, RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging) and LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) sensors, and real-time 3D-mapping technology, all of which enable the vehicle to get a clearer picture of the world around it.