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Tolling Points

Mcity: A Peek at the Future of Transportation

Bill Cramer

By Joe Averkamp, senior director, Technology, Policy, and Technical Strategy, Xerox

With the Grand Opening of Mcity on July 20 in Ann Arbor, the curtain was pulled back on a major initiative that the University of Michigan has put together with key members of the transportation industry. Mcity is a 32-acre controlled environment specifically designed to test connected vehicles, automated vehicles and the future of infrastructure technologies. On July 20, Mcity was alive with companies collaborating to show how technologies could be used to deliver the next generation of transportation solutions.

Mcity is just a piece of the overall program that the University of Michigan and Michigan Department of Transportation have created with their Mobility Transformation Center (MTC). The membership of the MTC Leadership Circles includes major automakers (GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan), their Tier One suppliers (Delphi, Bosch, Denso), and infrastructure system providers, of which Xerox is one

While Mcity provides a test and collaboration environment for new technologies, the Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) goes beyond technology demonstrations. Transportation technologies seek to address the key issues that we encounter in transportation:

Safety - we must keep the system safe;

Mobility - we must keep the system moving;

Funding - the system must be paid for; and

Environmental impacts - we seek to reduce the effects of transportation on the environment.

The MTC is intended to allow companies to explore how the next generation of transportation will be created, developed and deployed.  This includes the coming wave of autonomous or automated vehicles—whatever shape that future may take; the future of the connected vehicles – whether over Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) or 4G or even 5G, and also the seismic shift in the industry that has been ushered in by the sharing society in the form of Uber, Lyft, and Zipcars. The MTC provides a forum where policy issues can be debated, legal issues discussed, business model concepts can be explored, and products and technologies tested. As part of the MTC effort, Michigan will deploy several thousand connected vehicles in Southeast Michigan in addition to several thousand autonomous/automated vehicles that will be on the roads of Michigan in the next four to seven years.

Mcity provides a controlled test environment to collaborate in trying out new concepts before they are ready for the public roads. The Grand Opening of Mcity had several static demos as well as many live demos. Both the Bosch and Delphi self-driving cars were among the vehicles that were at Mcity. Also, Honda showcased a pedestrian safety application using DSRC for Vehicle-to-Pedestrian communications. All of these demos were intended to give a glimpse of what can be conceived and translated into prototypes.

We’re a part of the MTC because we want to help shape the future of transportation. We demonstrated smart parking solutions and also showcased our Vehicle Passenger Detection System (XVPDS) which can be used for enforcement, toll adjustment for managed lanes, or a variety of other applications. By tying the Xerox Vehicle Passenger Detection System to DSRC, we were able to show that occupancy detection could be delivered in real-time to both roadside signs and in-vehicle displays.

The future of the MTC looks very promising as infrastructure providers and automakers come together to collaborate to build new systems to better serve the travelling public. Mcity is a key part of this initiative, and based upon the grand opening, there are many innovations in the area of autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, and infrastructure technology advances coming from Mcity to your roadway in the not too distant future.



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