Forget Motown, America’s spiritual home of motoring now has its own Mcity. Just 40 miles down the freeway from the original Motor City of Detroit, and spread out over 32 acres of the North Campus Research Complex at Michigan University, the world’s first driverless-car town is up and running.
Maybe I’m letting my imagination go wild here but it all reminds me a bit of Westworld, the sci-fi western thriller starring Yul Brynner, in which a holiday at a robot inhabited theme park goes wrong when a bug gets into the androids’ systems and they all get a bit blood-thirsty. I’m sure Mcity won’t suffer a similar fate, but I might hold off my visit just yet.
Rather than being a mecca for fun seekers the facility has, of course, been built as a testing ground for tomorrow’s vehicles to learn to drive and communicate with each other. The idea being that once these computerised motors have got their provisional licences, passed their theory tests and finally chucked away the L plates for good we’ll let them share the roads with us. To many the proposition of driving around with other vehicles on auto pilot may seem all a bit too sci fi to accept. I can certainly see it being a contentious issue once the technology is deemed capable enough to safely implement.
Still with Google and now Apple both committed to producing their own vehicles by the end of the decade it seems likely this crazy notion could be a reality sooner rather than later, and I’m sure many would observe there’s plenty of drivers on today’s roads that they couldn’t fail to be safer than!
Here are all the accidents involving Google’s 23 driverless cars as of June 2015 in numbers:
12 minor traffic accidents on public roads:
8 of which involved being rear-ended at a stop sign or traffic light.
2 in which the vehicle was side-swiped by another driver.
1 which involved another driver rolling through a stop sign.
1 where a Google employee was manually driving the car.
And in July 2015, a Google car was rear-ended by a driver who failed to brake at a traffic light resulting in the first recorded self-driving car related injuries for 3 Google employees.
All of this seems to suggest we’ll be better off once we get all these human drivers off the road, maybe that road trip to Mcity doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all!