Connected cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and even pedestrians can  communicate with one another either directly or via an infrastructure of roadside  devices to warn of potential dangers and manage traffic flow across an entire region.

What is the purpose of the MTC?

The MTC is a public/private R&D partnership that will lead a revolution in mobility by developing the foundations for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated vehicles. One of the central goals is to develop and implement an advanced system of connected and automated vehicles in Ann Arbor by 2021.

What are “connected and automated” vehicles?

“Connected” means that vehicles can anonymously and securely exchange data with other vehicles and with the infrastructure, including location, speed, and direction,  via wireless communication devices (V2V and V2I). This makes it possible to create applications that warn drivers of emerging dangerous situations, such as a car slipping on ice around an upcoming curve, or a car that may be likely to run a red light ahead, or provide advice to drivers on eco-operation to save fuel. 

Communication devices embedded in the infrastructure can make it possible to manage the flow of traffic across an entire region, timing lights for optimal traffic flow, for example.

Bicycles and pedestrians can also be connected via portable devices. Connected vehicles can also enable various levels of automation.

Automated vehicles allow certain driving functions (acceleration, braking, steering) to be machine-activated by technology built into the vehicle. Automated vehicle systems can vary in the number of functions that are automated and the range of driving environments where automation will apply. Automation requires a sufficient number and variety of sensors, connections and maps to create situation awareness, and robotic functionality to mimic the role of the human driver. V2V and V2I connectivity represent additional, and very powerful, “sensors” providing valuable information about other vehicles and features of the infrastructure.

How does that differ from “autonomous” vehicles?

A fully “autonomous” vehicle carries all of the necessary sensors, decision-making software, and control features to “see” the environment around it and actually drive itself without input or command from the outside. Since it is not connected, it does not rely on communications from other vehicles, but responds to what it “senses” around it, just as human drivers do.  But “autonomous” is something of a misnomer when applied to vehicles, in that it still is likely connected to other entities for things like updating of maps, correcting GPS, and remote control commands, etc. Unlike connected vehicles, however, they cannot detect traffic situations that are blocked by physical barriers or out of range of its sensors. 

What are the potential benefits of connected and automated vehicles?

Connected and automated vehicles partly or fully remove the human from the complex sensing, monitoring, and control processes involved in motor vehicle driving. Travelers and vehicle occupants will benefit from new, enjoyable on-demand services, reduced stress and better use of travel time. Since driver error is responsible for approximately 93% of US fatal crashes, we will see a dramatic improvement in crash avoidance andtraffic behavior in addition to a reduction in energy consumption. Absent the need for the ever more protective, generic vehicle structures designed for crash survival, vehicle designs will become more nimble and responsive to user needs, as well as highly efficient relative to energy needs and carbon emissions.

By comparison, current transportation systems that move people, goods, and services in societies worldwide pose unprecedented environmental, economic, and social challenges. There is growing urgency to reduce crashes, relieve the congestion of urban centers, to cut back on carbon emissions and pollution, to conserve resources, and to maximize transportation accessibility to growing populations. 

What are the barriers to progress?

A host of advances in such areas as connected and automated vehicle systems, multi-modal transportation, traffic performance management, fractional vehicle use, as well as in new fuels, novel engine design, alternative energy sources, and advanced materials, offer great promise to address the challenges and, in the process, to truly revolutionize mobility in societies worldwide. Individually, none of these advances will have the impact needed; we must look at our mobility system as a whole. To date, there has been little work on how to integrate the technical, economic, social, and policy considerations to create a viable mobility “system” that meets the dynamic needs of a changing society.

While the technology is compelling, this new “mobility package” needs to be highly attractive to users throughout society and needs to be commercially successful, creating many new business partnerships and opportunities.

What’s unique about the MTC’s approach?

The combination of features below makes the MTC unique:

  • Partners drawn from the industries, governmental organizations, and academic institutions that work together to accelerate progress and shape the future of mobility.
  • Three planned on-roadway deployments of thousands of vehicles across Southeast Michigan and a unique off-roadway test facility that simulates an urban environment, allowing ways to test ideas and approaches to develop practical systems before the are evaluated on actual roadways.
  • A multi-pronged, interdisciplinary approach to the challenges that goes beyond technical developments to address the legal, social, regulatory, political, economic, business, certification, consumer acceptance, and urban planning issues key to implementation.

Who are U-M’s partners?

U-M is bringing together a wide range of organizations and institutions that see the potential of this approach and will play a key role in making it happen. They include vehicle manufacturers and suppliers; IT and telecommunications companies; an ecosystem of large and small enterprises in ITS, hardware and software companies involved in data management, analysis, and transmission, federal agencies; state agencies; universities; economic development groups; and others.

What does U-M bring to the table?

  • Expertise in the full range of disciplines—ranging through engineering, urban planning, social analysis, policy and law —required to address the full complexity of considerations needed to develop and implement realistic solutions.
  • Culture of cross-disciplinary work.
  • Working relationships with the global automobile industry, as well as with other industries that will be involved in the development of advanced mobility systems.
  • A strong base of industry and federally funded research already underway in related areas across the university.
  • Experience with the federally funded Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment, the world’s largest on-road test bed for connected vehicle systems, already installed on the streets of Ann Arbor.
  • Endorsement and involvement from the state, Business Leaders for Michigan, and others.
  • Institutional commitment.
  • Location in the global center of automobile R&D.

With these changes, what could mobility look like in the future?

Taking a connected systems approach to mobility would mean that vehicles and infrastructure would communicate to avoid imminent safety hazards, minimize congestion and maximize traffic flow across entire regions, help enable driverless and shared vehicles, and allow individuals to coordinate seamlessly with other modes of transportation including, buses, trains, bicycles, and pedestrians. It would have major implications for urban planning, lifestyle, vehicle design and manufacturing, user accessibility to goods and services, and the overall ease and efficiency of moving people and goods from place to place.

Who is funding this initiative?

In addition to internal investment, this effort is building on the on-going base of work at U-M to solicit further federal, state, and industry support. We are forming a broad government and industry coalition to collaborate and invest in a demonstration of 21st Century Mobility in Ann Arbor.