Self-Driving Cars Get Miniature Test City in Michigan

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Eric Risberg/APA Google self-driving car goes on a test drive in Mountain View, Calif.
Feel like taking a trip, or even heading to the store? Not in the move to drive? Good news: Driverless cars are getting closer to production and now there's a miniature test city that is part of the effort to bring them to market.

The University of Michigan has built a 32-acre city to test self-driving cars as well as connected vehicles that communicate with the infrastructure and other autos. Called M City, the area will include various types of roads and intersections, traffic signs and road markings, sidewalks, bus facilities, parked cars, pedestrians and construction barriers, according to a press release from the school.

Although driverless vehicles have already been tested extensively -- Google (GOOGL) (GOOG) claims more than 700,000 autonomous miles in its cars -- it will take intensive examination under many conditions, situations and environments for designers, manufacturers, governments and the public to all feel comfortable with the biggest change in transportation in many decades.

From a curiosity, driverless car development has continued to advance and now the nascent industry is moving toward commercial availability. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn recently said driverless cars will hit showrooms by 2020, according to The Detroit Free Press reported that Google Director of Self-Driving Cars Chris Urmson claimed the tech company's own units to be available within the same timeframe. Google is currently having Detroit companies build a test fleet of prototypes.

Of course, hitting showrooms isn't enough for success. Companies must convince regulators and the public that driverless cars are safe in general traffic conditions. Then again, given how many people drive, maybe automatic cars won't seem that dangerous after all.
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