University’s M City will test driverless vehicles on North Campus


A 32-acre “mini-city,” designed expressly for testing connected and automated vehicle systems and other emerging 21st-century smart-city technologies, is taking shape on North Campus.

Called M City, the one-of-a-kind facility will include a network of roads with up to five lanes, intersections, roundabouts, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, bus facilities, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles like construction barriers.

“Connected and automated vehicle technology will usher in a revolution in the mobility of people and goods comparable to that sparked by the introduction of the automobile a century ago,” said Peter Sweatman, director of U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center. “M City will allow us to rigorously test new approaches in a safe, controlled and realistic environment before we implement them on actual streets.”

M City is being built under the auspices of the Mobility Transformation Center, a partnership with industry and government to lay the foundations for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated mobility.


A key goal of the U-M initiative, which involves researchers from a wide range of disciplines across campus, is to implement a connected and automated mobility system on the streets of southeastern Michigan by 2021.

The MTC also is developing on-roadway deployments of more than 20,000 cars, trucks and buses across southeastern Michigan to serve as testbeds for evaluating consumer behavior and exploring market opportunities.

“Connected” means that vehicles talk to each other and to elements of the infrastructure, according to a nationally defined standard of quality and reliability.

Connected vehicles anonymously and securely exchange data — including location, speed and direction — with other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure via wireless communication devices. This data can warn individual drivers of traffic tie-ups or emerging dangerous situations, such as a car slipping on ice around an upcoming curve, or a car that may be likely to run a red light ahead.

“Automated” vehicles are equipped with new systems of situation awareness and control that increasingly replace elements of human response and behavior. Such vehicles respond automatically to traffic situations by activating certain driving functions, such as acceleration, braking or steering. The highest level of automation allows for cars to be driverless.

The convergence of connected and automated technologies accelerates the transformational power, reliability and deployment of a new system of mobility services for people and freight.

When implemented on a large scale, systems of connected and automated vehicles can dramatically improve safety, relieve traffic congestion, cut back on emissions, conserve energy and maximize transportation accessibility.

Designed and built in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation, M City’s roadway construction was completed in December. The facility will be operational in the spring and a formal opening is planned for July.



  1. Deborah DeBrooke
    on January 26, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Will people be allowed to walk around M-City? Will it be fenced off to the public and University?



    • Jim Sayer
      on January 31, 2015 at 11:52 am


      The facility will be fenced off, and typically be closed to outside vehicle and pedestrian traffic for safety reasons. However, we do intend to have one or more “open house” events in which the public will be invited to see and M City first hand. If you are local to Ann Arbor, we will announce these events through the local media. But these are not likely to begin before late July or Early August of 2015.


  2. Nicholas Beeson
    on January 26, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I wish you had been more specific about exactly where on North Campus this is. From the current aerial photo on the Umich home page, it looks to me like it is on top of the old Bendix test track. This is where Bendix tested automotive, brake-system, prototypes. This was thirty-five to forty years ago. Bendix at that time owned the southwest corner of Green and Plymouth. The land directly north of the Green Road Commuter lot.

    • Kyle DeVries
      on January 27, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Yes, It is where the old Bendix test track was. More specifically, on Plymouth road located behind the big blue water tower that has clouds painted on it.

  3. Nicholas Beeson
    on January 26, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Correction: the land directly WEST of the Green Road Commuter lot has the old Bendix test track. The Bendix buildings were north of the lot. The track is visible in the aerial photos available on today, Monday, January 26, 2015. I just think it is interesting that the same land would be used for test tracks 40 years apart.

  4. Nicholas Beeson
    on January 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Sorry for the series of comments, but I have now verified, from a careful examination of the Umich home page photo that the new track is located just west of the old Bendix track, and the building in the Umich photo is the Bendix, test-track, building, built 40 or 50 years ago.

  5. Ronald Bude
    on January 28, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I do not ever want to be part of this sort of system. This is a serious personal liberty issue. Neither you nor anyone has the right to have positional information about me when I am traveling. Government does not need to know my whereabouts. And no, I don’t carry a cell phone most of the time so I can’t be tracked that way either. And I don’t own anything that can track my car now.

    • Kevin Heist
      on January 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm


    • John Bingamon
      on February 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      So…do you remove your license plate when driving?
      I don’t mean to belittle your concerns; personal privacy is a real and valid issue. But it is not the ONLY issue! You may feel I don’t have the right to know anything about your positional info, but I beg to differ. YOU do not have the right to kill me or my child playing near streets you drive on, by running around without plates or brake lights, or painting your car camo so harder to see, and thus increasing the chance you’ll harm someone.
      It IS a tradeoff, I agree, and we will disagree about where to draw the line. But I am willing to run some risk of personal info gathering if it means me and my loved ones will be less likely to die on the road, that I am less likely to do the same to others. As well as helping to save the planet, reduce road rage and time wasted in traffic, etc.

      • Bill Chamberlin
        on April 16, 2015 at 3:17 am

        I am all for the automated system.

        Don’t get me wrong I am all for privacy concerns. But I am more than willing to give up a small amount of my privacy to have accidents related to people making bad choices taken out of the road ways.

  6. Linda Randolph
    on January 29, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    This is a densely deer populated area. I am wondering what the planners are going to do with the deer other than send them into the city/23/Plymouth Rd?

    • Jim Sayer
      on January 31, 2015 at 11:59 am


      We are very aware of the deer, and see them almost daily near the site. For their safety, as well as that of those using M City, we have installed a 8′ fence around the entire facility in order to discourage them from entering. This is something that we will be monitoring very closely over the next few months to see if the fencing is sufficient to discourage the deer from entering. Fortunately, there still remains a considerable amount of wooded area near the site for them to occupy.


  7. kurt cooper
    on January 30, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    The track occupies 1/2 of the old Bendix track. Bendix used this track for development of technology that was used in the lunar rovers. There is a chamber in the green road building that was used to simulate a vacuum for the vehicle as well. The project is not employed to “spy” by big brother, it is to reduce vehicles occupying the same place at the same time, that’s not to say it cant morph(pursue a career in law and protect us!)…. however it has the potential to eliminate a lot of accidents and promote smoother traffic flow. As for the deer, it has taken a chunk of habitat away and it is fenced off, my opinion is that wild life is a part of our environment(including humans) and this technology should be inclusive and respond to wild life intrusions, if you will, as well as wired vehicles. I ride a 2 wheeler and am somewhat excited as it will take away credence to the “loud pipes save lives “(consider the Doppler effect argument)and give us all a quiet peaceful existence.

    • John Bingamon
      on February 21, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      I agree that it will need to deal with deer before it reaches “real-world” applications.
      But I’d imagine that’s going to be a tricky problem, and another reason for excluding deer for now: so they can concentrate on the simpler and more common problems first. Deer and other issues can be added in later, as they gain experience.

  8. Karen Natoci
    on February 1, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Love this! I would like to know when it is expanded to include livable areas. I will be happy to be the first resident!

  9. Hao Tang
    on February 1, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    How will students be able to participate in the development and research that will be done there?

    • Jim Sayer
      on February 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm


      The site was selected specifically to ensure access to students. We could have moved farther away, but it would have dramatically reduced the amount of student engagement. The site is not fully operational at this point, but there are a number of faculty who have written proposals with the intention to use M City. For the most part we see student engagement being tied to faculty members’ use of the facility for both education and research purposes. But we are open for suggestions.

  10. Rocky Zhang
    on February 1, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Excited about the news! Connected driving is a complex topic involving mulch-disciplinary coordination: Maps and LBS, auto engineering, computer vision and AI, and new business models derived from these technologies. Michigan has the right resources to take on this project, and this can put us on the frontier of one of the coolest things in the next decade. In 2 to 4 years the ecosystem should be able to test in real life (unfenced) environment, with people walking and deer running across the streets.

  11. Angela Weber
    on February 21, 2015 at 8:33 am

    What levels of microwave radiation will be involved? The WHO has labeled all EMF and Radio Frequencies as Class 2B carcinogens. Could be very risky exposing children to this all the time. Reducing lifespan. Should inform all involved of what they are exposed to.

  12. Kaley Zundel
    on April 20, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Will this site also be available to outside organizations to rent for other programs and testing who work with the university?

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