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University granted right to build driverless car test city

What better way to test autonomous cars than within an actual city environment?

A university in America has been granted the right to build a mini test city that will allow it to put autonomous vehicles through their paces without endangering the lives of other motorists.

The University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the test facility, which will include roundabouts, gravel roads, merging lanes, traffic lights, four-lane highway, benches, street lights, construction barriers and various other real-world scenarios a driverless car will need to tackle when out on public roads.

“There have been a host of innovations in this arena in recent years, but one of the major challenges ahead is to ensure that these vehicles can perform safely and reliably in a complex urban setting,” University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Centre director Peter Sweatman commented.

“Testing a workable system of such technologies in a realistic off-road environment is an essential step before a significant number of vehicles can be safely implemented on actual roadways,” he added.

A 30-acre site near the university’s North Campus Research Complex will have approximately three lane-miles of roads. The test city will be built by the autumn 2014 if all goes to plan. It will cost US$6.5 million.

Michigan Mobility Transformation Centre (MTC) researcher Stephen Forrest said the facility will help it understand more than just the technology. “Developing and implementing a realistic approach to moving both people and freight requires that we integrate scientific, technical, economic, social and policy considerations.

“The MTC will convene the required expertise from across campus as well as from industry and government to pave the way for the future.”

A number of companies have been testing autonomous cars, sometimes on public roads. Google, for instance, was granted legislation that allows public testing in the state of California. Meanwhile driverless ‘pods’ will be coming to Milton Keynes in 2015.

The UK government has said it wants to be the world leader in autonomous cars.

Recombu Cars was able to take an autonomous car out for a spin. Here’s how we got on.

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