What happens when a driverless car meets a robot pedestrian?

M City, a 23-acre urban mock-up designed and built by the University of Michigan to test driverless cars will also contain robot pedestrians to gauge the cars’ stopping abilities. 

The "mechatronic" pedestrians will test how well automatic brakes and sensors work when reacting in real time. 

The $6.5m cityscape will contain 40 building facades as well as a bridge, a tunnel, a four-lane highway, intersections and a roundabout. It is designed to replicate everyday situations such as traffic jams to test how well the cars cope and communicate with each other. 

The project is a collaboration between the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute and the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

Hideki Hada, general manager for electronic systems at Toyota’s Technical Centre in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told Bloomberg: "We would never do any dangerous tests on the open road, so this will be a good place to test some of the technology. 

"A big challenge is intersections in the city, because there are vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles together with complex backgrounds with buildings and connections to infrastructure. That’s why this is really important." 

Buildings will be rearranged and changed in order to test the cars in differing environments. 

All other tests of driverless cars have so far been on public roads or on private land.  

M City is due to start running on 20 July. 

The UK is trialling driverless pods that will move people around Milton Keynes by 2018. 

A Californian design company called IDEO, has created a 4m-long, air-conditioned, self-driving electric office pods. 

Image: As well as driverless cars, the new test facility will explore how vehicles can communicate with each other (Mobility Transformation Centre)

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News