Driverless vehicles have potential to change the way we drive and work

Driverless vehicles have the potential to revolutionize the way we drive as well as the way we conduct business, as demonstrated by a number of recent developments.

On Friday, the University of Michigan announced plans to open a 32-acre research facility devoted to testing the on-road capabilities of driverless cars.

Officials plan to start construction of the research facility this summer. The imitation city--called the Mobility Transformation Facility--will include merge lanes, stoplights, intersections, roundabouts, road signs, a railroad crossing, building facades and construction barrels. The majority of which will be repositionable, according to a press release from the university.

Ryan Eustice, an associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering involved with the university project, said the intense type of testing needed to ensure the safety of driverless cars on city streets cannot be done at current facilities.

"Every time a vehicle comes around the loop, it can hit something unusual," he said. "That will give us a leg up on getting these vehicles mature and robust and safe."

The sophistication of the planned project outpaces the sites that auto companies use right now, Eustice said. The university partnered with Bosch, Econolite, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Xerox on the testing area, he added.

On Monday, the West Australian reported that the British-Australian multinational Rio Tinto's fleet of 53 driverless mining vehicles--the largest of its kind in the world--had loaded over 200 million tons of iron ore since they were activated a few years ago.

And at the end of May, Google released video demos of its highly touted fleet of driverless cars.

For more:
- read the press release from the University of Michigan
- watch the video demo of the Google driverless car
- read the story on Rio Tinto's mining fleet from The West Australian

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