WASHINGTON -- Japanese and American automakers are joining with the University of Michigan to build a test site for self-driving cars as early as autumn to simulate dangerous conditions in hopes of improving safety technology.
The 130,000-sq.-meter site on the university's campus will replicate real-world traffic conditions with buildings, traffic signals, and two- to four-lane roads. It will also simulate circumstances that would be difficult to study on public roads, such as pedestrians rushing into the street and roads blocked by construction.
This will mark the first time that automakers work together to set up a large-scale test site. Toyota Motor, General Motors, Ford Motor, Xerox and German autoparts maker Bosch will participate in the project.
The state of Michigan is setting up wireless communications equipment in such places as main roads and intersections. Testing on public roads will start in earnest in 2016, with commercialization of self-driving systems planned for 2021.
Michigan is home to the U.S. auto industry, and Toyota and other automakers have worked with the university in the past on technology research. The new test site is aimed at bringing together major players from different countries and taking the initiative in introducing driverless cars and crafting standards.
The U.S. government is poised to take a step ahead of Japan and Europe, leading the way on development through such steps as autonomous-vehicle races held by the Department of Defense. States including Michigan and California have passed legislation allowing testing of driverless cars on public streets, and Google unveiled a prototype last month.