Ann Arbor to deploy autonomous cars by 2021

Credit: Auto Focus

Autonomous cars are coming, we all know that. But for some folks they're coming sooner than later. Amongst the very first adopters of autonomous are the inhabitants of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Believe it or not, this quiet university town wants to be the very first place in the U.S. to deploy its very own fleet of shared, driverless cars.

The driverless car is expected to be road ready by the year 2020. Ann Arbor wants their own fleet of the vehicles to be safely, autonomously ferrying its citizens from place to place less than a year after that. To meet such an ambitious timeline, engineers at the University of Michigan (U of M) have already begun building their city's future infrastructure.

A program called Safety Pilot, involving 3,000 volunteer area residents, is under way. Each volunteer's car is equipped with a suite of sensors which constantly monitor road conditions and driver habits. These sensors also communicate with a growing number of street-level monitoring devices which aid in the accumulating of data for use in the impending network of autonomous cars.

Recently, a second stage of Ann Arbor's quest to be the first U.S. adopters of driverless cars went into effect, when the U of M regents approved a 30-acre test site near the school's North Campus. There, driverless cars will navigate a simulated landscape, similar to a congested urban area. The site will cost $6.5 million and will create the most real-world environment that driverless cars will see until their implementation.

When Ann Arbor's fleet of driverless cars hit the road, residents will be able to call a car to their location via a smartphone app. A car will arrive at their location, take them to their destination, and then drive off to pick up its next rider. It's a system also being deployed across the pond in the city of Milton Keynes, England. The system also sounds a lot like Google's rumored robo taxi fleet. Ann Arbor's self-driving cars also just might be the beginning of an all-new revolution in personal transport.

University of Michigan, via Detroit Free Press

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