Skip to main content

Ford tests autonomous cars at 'Mcity' simulated city

Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle at Mcity
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Earlier this year, the University of Michigan opened Mcity, a testing ground for autonomous cars that resembles a movie set. It’s a complete simulated urban environment, designed to create realistic conditions while still providing a controlled testing environment.

But a simulated city isn’t very useful without any self-driving cars to ply its streets. Ford says it’s the first manufacturer to test cars there, as part of its ongoing effort to put an autonomous car on sale at some future date. The University of Michigan believes its facility can help Ford accomplish this sooner by providing more realistic testing scenarios.

“The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor,” said Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and principal investigator in Ford’s collaboration with the school. “Every mile driven here 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,” he said.

Developing autonomous cars requires deliberate programming of software responses to specific scenarios, but a car needs to be exposed for them in order for engineers to determine how to do that programming. Mcity features everything from traffic lights to bike lanes, as well as a variety of road surfaces. This allows testers to simulate things that will happen in the real world, without the unpredictability and potential legal ramifications of testing cars on public roads.

Ford deployed the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle it unveiled back in 2013 for testing at Mcity. The car uses a combination of front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, and four LiDAR sensors to generate a 3D map of its surroundings. The Fusion was developed in concert with the University of Michigan, and State Farm.

In addition to the Michigan testing program, Ford is working on autonomous cars out of a new research center in Silicon Valley that opened earlier this year. Self-driving cars are one prong of Ford’s “Smart Mobility Plan,” which encompasses multiple research projects focusing on trending technologies, also including connectivity and the use of big data.

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Waymo expands robotaxi service area in San Francisco
The upcoming Zeekr vehicle from Geely.

Robotaxi leader Waymo is expanding its ridesharing service area in San Francisco.

The Alphabet-owned company announced move on Monday in a message on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. It means that more riders can now take trips in Waymo’s driverless vehicles within a 47-square-mile area of the city.

Read more
Cruise autonomous vehicle drives over woman just after she was hit by another car
A Cruise autonomous car.

An autonomous vehicle (AV) operated by Cruise ran over a pedestrian in San Francisco on Monday night just after she’d been hit by another car, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

According to witnesses, the force of the initial impact knocked the woman into the path of the Cruise robotaxi, leaving her pinned under one of its wheels. The driver in the other car reportedly fled the scene.

Read more
Cruise says it’s nearing approval for mass production of futuristic robotaxi
Interior of Cruise's Origin vehicle.

Robotaxi company Cruise is “just days away” from getting regulatory approval that would pave the way for mass production of its purpose-built driverless vehicle, CEO Kyle Vogt said on Thursday in comments reported by the Detroit Free Press.

General Motors-backed Cruise unveiled the vehicle -- called Origin -- in early 2020, presenting the kind of driverless car that we all dreamed of when R&D in the sector kicked off years ago; a vehicle without a steering wheel and without pedals. A vehicle with passenger seats only.

Read more