Instead of competing with auto manufacturers and Google to see who can develop the most elaborate systems that will guide driverless cars, the University of Michigan is confident that an intricate communicative network and a stable infrastructure are essential to integrating autonomous vehicles into the urban environment.
The city of Ann Arbor has teamed up with the university’s Mobility Transformation Center to work towards putting the nation’s first fleet of networked, driverless vehicles on the road within the next eight years.
The Safety Pilot project, which now includes 2,800 volunteers from Ann Arbor, is the university’s preliminary action towards its ambitious goal. Now into its second year, the project has successfully collected 12 billion wireless transmissions from the volunteer vehicles. Each of these cars was equipped with radio communications devices that talk to traffic signals at 25 intersections, providing essential information on traffic situations and driving conditions to university.
Jim Sayer, the Mobility Transformation Center’s director of deployment, believes wireless transmissions are better suited for driverless steering because these devices allow a car to communicate with the car ahead of it and know to give it some room, something Google’s sensor system does not account for.
With a $6.5 million driverless car test facility in sight, the university will continue to work with the auto industry to bring about a driverless town, as well as a fully operational self-driving taxi service by 2021.