Many conventional car makers have started testing self-driving cars as they see technology companies like Google have already been working on this for a very long time, so they’re stepping up efforts to ensure that they’re not left out of the fray once fully autonomous driving becomes a reality. Ford is just one of the companies that’s testing self-driving cars but while some conduct tests on closed circuits and others in cities, Ford has actually built a fake city in which it’s testing these cars.
Ford’s “Mcity” is a fake town sprawling 32 acres, it has been designed by University of Michigan and it recreates a “full-scale simulated real-world urban environment” that’s engineered to test automated vehicles to accelerate development time.
This urban environment provides real-world scenarios such as running a red light which can’t really be replicated on a public road. It features everything you’d expect from an urban environment from street lights to crosswalks, lane delineators, bike lanes, trees, sidewalks, signs and traffic control devices.
Ford is testing its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle at this facility across a range of surfaces which include simulated brick and dirt, asphalt and concrete. It maneuvers two, three and four lane roads while tackling tunnels, roundabouts and ramps.
Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and co-investigator in Ford’s research collaboration with UoM explains: “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.”
This setup will enable Ford to test different scenarios that it can’t on public roads and put that valuable data to use when developing semi-autonomous and fully autonomous driving features that will eventually be making their way to cars that are meant for the general public.