University of Michigan Launches Transportation Initiative


The University of Michigan through its Transformation Center is launching a transformation initiative with several private sector partners including Bosch, Econolite, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Xerox. They will join with federal, state, and local government representatives in a major U-M initiative to alter the movement of people and goods worldwide.

The goal of MTC is to lay the foundations of a commercially viable system of connected and automated vehicles—vehicles that communicate wirelessly with one another and with infrastructure to warn of potential hazards and allow increasing automation of vehicle functions. Plans call for demonstrating a working system in Ann Arbor by 2021.

In some cases this initiative is another demonstration of the Internet of Things, which corporations feel is the next frontier for wireless and commercial enterprise despite the recent Heartbleed vulnerability among other security concerns. Cisco has placed the Internet of Things as a $17 trillion market. The university says systems of connected and automated vehicles could dramatically reduce crashes, relieve urban congestion, and cut pollution and energy use.

Located on 32 acres of U-M’s North Campus Research Complex, the off-roadway test site is being designed and built to simulate the complexities of a dynamic urban environment. It will include a network of approximately three lane-miles of concrete and asphalt roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, roundabouts, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, and obstacles such as construction barriers.

As part of Xerox’s research focus, the company will integrate and analyze data provided by the USDOT’s Safety Pilot Model Deployment program to identify new opportunities in areas such as fleet performance monitoring, driver behavior, road infrastructure quality and vehicle health and diagnostics. Xerox is entering into a three-year partnership with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to help shape the future of urban mobility across the country. Along with Ford, General Motors and Toyota, Xerox is also a member of the Leadership Circle of the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center (MTC).

Xerox will focus on transaction management solutions, smart parking applications, data integration, and building out the recently announced Vehicle Passenger Detection System a HOV/HOT lane compliance test system that uses video analytics to identify the number of occupants in a vehicle.

“The task before us goes beyond the technical challenges. In our research, we will be addressing the interrelated legal, political, regulatory, social, economic, and urban planning issues as well,” said Peter Sweatman, director of MTC. “A wide range of sectors have a stake in the future of mobility. We are reaching out to such areas as telecommunications, big data management, freight, public transportation, and insurance as well as to OEMs and tier 1 suppliers.”