Ford shifts its autonomous car program into a higher gear, announcing it will become the first automaker to test its self-driving cars at a new Michigan compound.
While the Detroit manufacturer has been working on both connected- and autonomous-car technologies for a decade, the new testing program at Mcity – a 32-acre faux metropolis in Ann Arbor, Mich. – reflects Ford’s recent move to upgrade its self-driving efforts from pure research to advanced engineering.
“We’ve been testing (autonomous) cars in the real world, but using a place like Mcity will allow us to refine our algorithms and better calibrate car sensors by repeating specific situations in a reliable way,” says Raj Nair, Ford’s vice president of global product development.
Mcity opened this past summer and is a joint project of the University of Michigan and the state’s Department of Transportation. Ford is one of a few large automakers contributing $1 million over three years to Mcity, which features storefronts, traffic lights, pedestrian zones and other real-world infrastructure to better train autonomous cars on how they need to react in a range of scenarios.
With the reality of streets humming with self-driving cars now more a matter of when than if, automakers and technology companies are looking for ways to accelerate their respective efforts.