Michigan is Building a $6.5 Million Ghost Town for Driverless Cars

Michigan is Building a $6.5 Million Ghost Town for Driverless Cars

Self Driving Cars 310x

Michigan's Department of Transportation, the University of Michigan, and 13 companies are pitching in on the $6.5 million, 30-acre testing ground.

Self-driving cars are the way of the future, no bones about it. From Tesla's recent statements on driverless cars, to efforts made by Google, soon you'll be sitting in your ride (hopefully not asleep) as it drives you to work.

And Michigan seems to agree -- an important factor, since the state is home to America's three major auto manufacturers. The Wolverine State is set to help push self-driving car tech forward, as its Department of Transportation embarks on a $6.5 million, 30-acre testing facility.

What's being constructed is essentially a ghost town, set on the north edge of Ann Arbor's University of Michigan flagship campus. The test town is being built by the Michigan DoT, the aforementioned university's Mobility Transformation Center, and 13 private-sector companies. Some of the names involved include Bosch, Econolite, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Xerox. Ford, GM, and Toyota are well known, for sure, while Bosch is a major car part manufacturer, and Econolite builds traffic control equipment. Xerox makes photocopiers...so there's that (kidding, of course). [Update: The full list of non-government entities involved: Delphi, Denso, Econolite, Ford, GM, Honda, Iteris, Nissan, Bosch, State Farm, Toyota, Verizon, Xerox]

While the test range will include everything you would expect in a driving test environment (streets, traffic lights, turns, etc.) the facility will be largely automated. This means robotic construction crews, pedestrians popping out from behind parked cars, and other average day road hazards.

The primary technology set to be tested on the range will be car-to-car communication, which will eventually allow cars to maintain distance between one another, even if the make and model differs.

Source: MIT Tech Review | Thinking Highways

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Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

Devin Connors:
The primary technology set to be tested on the range will be car-to-car communication, which will eventually allow cars to maintain distance between one another, even if the make and model differs.

I have uncomfortable visions of "Our brand gets you eight inches closer to your neighbor, saving an average of 3.8 minutes on a thirty minute commute" commercials in the near future.

...And that's before hackers and "mod"-ers enter the picture.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a safe commute without inattentive, self-centered, and overly-aggressive drivers. But given any number of factors- not least the U.S.'s current anti-regulation love- I have to wonder just how many hurdles exist between that and the reality.

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

Dammit, ninja'd... Still I don't get why they don't pick an already defunct town somewhere (I'm pretty sure Michigan has some) and just rebuild some of the infrastructure there instead of creating a whole new place and wasting land. A quick search on Wiki has a large listing. Seems an awful waste not to use whats already there.

I'd be interested in watching a live feed once they get it up and running (as if). Hilarity ensues as programming goes wrong.

Captcha: "What kind of vehicle are you interested in purchasing" *eyes narrow. Coincidence????

"The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.", from "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams.

Now one could add: "and driverless cars drove for you to places, you didn't want to visit".

That's so fucking creepy sounding.

I love it.

Imperioratorex Caprae:

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

Dammit, ninja'd... Still I don't get why they don't pick an already defunct town somewhere (I'm pretty sure Michigan has some) and just rebuild some of the infrastructure there instead of creating a whole new place and wasting land. A quick search on Wiki has a large listing. Seems an awful waste not to use whats already there.

there are actually a couple reasons why they would want to use a closed testing situation:
1 control of conditions: they can control what types of vehicles are in any given situation (car interacts with bus, bus interacts with truck, and truck interacts with car), and how much stress testing each one goes through. then they can also more readily set up different road conditions, and possibly even test what happens when the vehicle does not have accurate GPS information on a given street by force feeding it incorrect information.
2 control of outside influences: if they were to resurrect a now defunct part of a city then they would then have to take measures to essentially wall it off, and make sure that there are few outside interferences. think of this headline "tourist takes wrong turn in Detroit gets into accident with robotic bus" effectively not only placing a gigantic "?" on the entire self-driving car situation, but also putting the entirety of MIT on the line. then there is also the issue of vagrant that may already be there.
3 the ability to modify conditions as necessary without needing to seek direct approval: basically if a company seeks to modify existing infrastructure they need permission to do so "we want to change this mostly good paved road into a dirt road", and then "we need to add a turn lain to this street which may require to move a building", then my favorite" we need to take this completely flat city block, and turn it into a hill with a 20% grade"*

my biggest thing is their overall timetable to escalate the test to include non-automated vehicles (this will actually be the most important test in terms of legislation, and public approval), and then to include real humans in these situations for the "unexpected of when non-scripted humans get involved the second biggest hurdle to this concept.

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

Crap, got that in before me.

This is a great idea. I have talked about this idea with people I know to allow computers to maintain our day to day driving needs and I was scoffed at. They really thought these cars would cause more crashes then people driving. I would much rather have a computer keeping distance from another car then relying on Becky driving and texting at the same time.

This will by no means prevent all accidents but this would eventually lower the %.

...I actually work in the building directly next to this construction. I've been wondering for months what they've been doing over there. Excellent!

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

As a Detrotier that cut deep but Highland park a City inside of Detroit that is doing much worse would be a better place.

Also, heads up to all of y'all suggesting Detroit as a testing ground: We have carjackings in the D.

Hm...Grand Theft Auto Robo-Detroit.

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

I'm thinking this was everyones first thought on this one. Why build new. Just use Detroit. Unleash Skynet.

gardian06:
good stuff

You missed the one point that is probably most relevant to detroit

4: What are the chances that one of those expensive prototype driverless cars is going to get jacked?
Seriously, theres a really good chance someone would try to hop whatever fence you got there and go for it.

You know I just realized that it's probably the case where this will in the not so near future severely limit speeding tickets because well, the cars are going to be programmed right? If that's the case than cops are going to have to start re-thinking the way in which they collect their extra cash.

XenoScifi:
This is a great idea. I have talked about this idea with people I know to allow computers to maintain our day to day driving needs and I was scoffed at. They really thought these cars would cause more crashes then people driving. I would much rather have a computer keeping distance from another car then relying on Becky driving and texting at the same time.

This will by no means prevent all accidents but this would eventually lower the %.

While that is true and I'm all for it, I do hope they make sure that a human can easily seize control incase of computer failure(be it due to bugs, hacking or someone modding the things). I know it'd make me feel a lot better as I know from experience that the computer is gonna screw up eventually and when it does it likely ain't gonna be pretty.

So the legal system of traffic violations is going to have to be completely re-worked? If a driver has the option to manually control or to go automated, can't he just claim after an accident that the car "went haywire" or "must have been hacked" in order to avoid responsibility (and increased insurance rates)? There would need to be a log of what mode the car was in at a given time - so the police would need a way to interface with the car to get that information to more properly assess a traffic violation or accident. Would the police even bother to or have the authority to penalize car manufacturers for faulty programming?

I don't want to be involved in guinea pigging this. I do a lot of walking and am currently not at all comfortable with putting my life in the hands of a 2000 pound robot. At least right now when I cross the street there are human beings controlling the cars.

its right next to campus, ech? how long till soem drunk students decide to invade that town?

Kameburger:
You know I just realized that it's probably the case where this will in the not so near future severely limit speeding tickets because well, the cars are going to be programmed right? If that's the case than cops are going to have to start re-thinking the way in which they collect their extra cash.

thats it. these self driving cars are hurting our police force. lets ban them. Sad thing is - im sure some politician will try to run with this.

briankoontz:
So the legal system of traffic violations is going to have to be completely re-worked? If a driver has the option to manually control or to go automated, can't he just claim after an accident that the car "went haywire" or "must have been hacked" in order to avoid responsibility (and increased insurance rates)? There would need to be a log of what mode the car was in at a given time - so the police would need a way to interface with the car to get that information to more properly assess a traffic violation or accident. Would the police even bother to or have the authority to penalize car manufacturers for faulty programming?

I don't want to be involved in guinea pigging this. I do a lot of walking and am currently not at all comfortable with putting my life in the hands of a 2000 pound robot. At least right now when I cross the street there are human beings controlling the cars.

im sure that at least first models will have extensive logging that will be hard to edit for regular user who still struggles not to instal every malware he meets. Insurance rates will go DOWN, because a robot is much more reliable in what you expect him to do that a random person. the transition period where the two mixes will be interesting though.

you are right though that the law has to change to account for faulty programming. as far as police bothering to do it, considering this will likely decrease amount of accidents significantly and will likely pretty much eliminate speeding there will be much more time for the "foot soldiers" to do their job.

also too bad your already putting your life in the hamds of robots. interconnected automated networks control everything nowadays. street lamps, traffic lights, lifts, fire exists, you name it. unless you live in your hours somewhere in rural are and never leave it your life is already affected by robots. in fact there is quite a scare going right now because people realized that a good coordinated attack into our electricity management system network could essentially shut down the country.

As far as you crossing the street, yes, right now the situation is far worse - a human is behind the wheel. a human that may be distracted, drunk, sleeping or just half-blind. humans are far more fallable. they are so fallable that most of plane systems are already automated because autopilot does it better. the pilots are there only for takeoff and landing, and the autopilot COULD do it, its just that humans do it "softer" for the passengers. and of course there is the whole scare of "omg there is no pilot".

It's hard to visualize the impact of autonomous cars when they save tens of thousands of lives (or millions if you include animals) from accidents and dumb/drunk/psychotic drivers.

Robo-cars? Next thing you know Detroit will be full of Robo-cops!

I think the biggest push back to all this is going to be drivers. People are likely to trust their own (highly overrated) driving skills to that of "some machine." After all, the machine could make some mistake and run someone over! AS always though, thank science for technology. The day when my commute can be spent lounging in the back seat playing video games while my car drives me to work will be a glorious one.

briankoontz:
I don't want to be involved in guinea pigging this. I do a lot of walking and am currently not at all comfortable with putting my life in the hands of a 2000 pound robot. At least right now when I cross the street there are human beings controlling the cars.

Just remember there are plenty of drivers that give zero attention to pedestrians to make your comment completely moot. Honestly if these cars are able to track and locate people at crosswalks that will be a huge plus over a person driving really only paying attention to 10 feet in front of them as if the rest of the world does not exist.

I walk often, and I cannot imagine this being a bad thing for people who uses crosswalks. Give these cars sensors that pick them up and you should have limited problems. But then again you will still get those tards that thinks it's ok to jaywalk and then gets upset when a car strikes them, automated or not.

albino boo:
Why not just use Detroit. Its pretty much a ghost town anyway.

Because OCP has bigger plans...

OT: Actually, I was thinking ATMOS... Even still, this is weird and fun and I like it.

Devin Connors:
[Update: The full list of non-government entities involved: Delphi, Denso, Econolite, Ford, GM, Honda, Iteris, Nissan, Bosch, State Farm, Toyota, Verizon, Xerox]

Wait, Tesla isn't involved?

Having fixed all the other problems, why the hell not? Amirite Detroit?

 

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