Flying cars still are still a pipe dream. But autonomous vehicles are coming—whether enthusiasts want them or not.
Of course, there's a lot of work to be done before drivers—if we'll still call them that—will be able to hop into their cars, utter the computer equivalent of "home Jeeves," and be whisked away without another thought. So to that end, the University of Michigan is set to open a ten-million-dollar, 32-acre "city" where manufacturers will be able to test self-driving cars to insure they're up to the task of navigating an ever-changing urban landscape.
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The creatively named M City is situated on the grounds of the University of Michigan, and has found support from multiple automakers, including Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F], Honda, Nissan, and General Motors Company [NYSE:GM]. So far, industry leader Google has not officially been involved with the project.
During testing, vehicles there will have to navigate a network of 40 buildings, traverse gravel roads, handle blind turns and a bridge, and negotiate a traffic circle. Pedestrians will be played by the part of robot dummies which will be set to blindly plunge into roadways to test the cars ability to avoid striking careless—or not so careless—human residents.
Obviously, the tech is only one part of the equation. Legal issues—namely, who will be blamed in the event of an accident—need to be established, as will protocols for action when collisions are unavailable. For example, will an autonomous car determine it's better to hit an errant pedestrian or cyclist if avoiding them will put more people in harm's way?
It's a moral issue automakers and software designers will have to decide, and at this point, no one has all the answers.
How long it will be before human pilots are banned from certain areas, or even entire cities, remains to be seen. But mark our words, that day is coming. Watch the video above to learn more about M City and its role in the future of transportation.