Ford is the first automaker to use MCity, a dedicated test track for self-driving cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ford will use the location to continue testing its Fusion Hybrid self-driving prototypes, which have cameras, radar, LIDAR, and other sensors to help navigate urban environments.
The 32-acre MCity is part of the University of Michigan and will be open to any automaker who wants to test self-driving cars there. There’s a high-speed track designed to simulate a four-lane highway, as well as an urban area with stop signs, intersections, simulated buildings, and artificial pedestrians and cyclists. Engineers can also test on tunnels, roundabouts, and on various road surfaces like brick, concrete, and dirt.
By testing the Ford Fusion Hybrid prototypes at the MCity track, Ford says it can replicate high-risk events much more easily than during on-road testing, for instance by have the autonomous car avoid other vehicles that run red lights or stop signs.
“Every mile driven [at MCity] 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,” University of Michigan professor Ryan Eustice, who’s working with Ford on self-driving technologies, said in a statement.
Ford has also partnered with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop ways for autonomous cars to guess and predict the actions of other cars and pedestrians. The goal is for the cars to be able to use “common sense” when evaluating how to react to hazards during real-world driving.
The self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid prototypes can automatically map any obstacle within 200 feet of the car, and is said to have sensors that are so sensitive that can “sense the difference between a paper bag and a small animal at nearly a football field away.” Ford plans to launch production self-driving cars on public roads by 2025.