Although connectivity and automation technologies have matured, the transportation field has yet to fully embrace their capabilities. A new collaborative, public-private research and development partnership among industry, government and the University of Michigan is about to change that through the U-M Mobility Transformation Center (MTC).
Moving Multiple Metrics
“We want to harness the potential of these technologies to improve the performance of transportation systems, safety in particular, by at least an order of magnitude,” said ME Professor Huei Peng, the Center’s associate director. “We also will address other critical issues, namely energy consumption and congestion; we want to have an impact on multiple metrics.”
To realize the vision for the Center, one central goal is to develop and implement an advanced system of connected and automated vehicles in Ann Arbor by the year 2021. To that end, three research clusters will bring together vehicles, investigators and infrastructure to “test real breakthrough concepts in living laboratories,” explained Peng.
Ann Arbor already boasts 2,800 connected vehicles, thanks to a U-M Safety Pilot Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The demonstration project was designed to test the potential and real-life performance of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. The MTC’s first research pillar will extend that initiative and involve tripling the number of connected vehicles on Ann Arbor roadways. A second research pillar will focus on expanding connected vehicles throughout southeastern Michigan. A third will focus on automated vehicle capabilities.
World’s First Connected Vehicle Proving Grounds
In May 2014, the MTC broke ground on a $6.5 million Mobility Transformation Facility, a state-of-the-art testing environment for connected and automated vehicles. The facility, funded in part by the MDOT and slated for completion in fall 2014, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world. Peng is enthusiastic about the MTC’s accomplishments in its first year and the progress that can be made going forward. “The Safety Pilot Project gave us a very strong foundation to start with,” he said. “And Ann Arbor is so close to the heart of the US automotive industry, where many connected and automated technologies are being developed. That, coupled with the University’s strong tradition in automotive engineering, makes now the right time and U-M, the right place.”
For more information on the Mobility Transformation Center, visit http://www.umtri.umich.edu/who-we-are/research-groups/mobility-transformation-center.