Written by Rick Cloyd.
Nexmobi aims to create a future ecosystem of autonomous vehicle companies and users in the Greater Peoria area. How is this ecosystem different from other dedicated autonomous vehicle test sites in the Midwest? To understand this let’s look at two such nearby facilities in Michigan and Iowa – MCity and NADS.
AV Test Site – MCity in Ann Arbor, Michigan*
The MCity Test Facility, opened July 20, 2015, is the first purpose-built proving ground for testing connected and automated vehicles and technologies in simulated urban and suburban driving environments.
MCity sits on a 32-acre site on the University of Michigan’ North Campus, with about 16 acres of roads and traffic infrastructure. The grounds include approximately five lane-miles of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, simulated buildings, street lights, and obstacles such as construction barriers.
- 1000’ North/South straight
- Various road surfaces (concrete, asphalt, brick, dirt)
- Variety of curve radii, ramps
- Two, three and four-lane roads
- Round-about and “tunnels”
- Sculpted dirt and grassy areas
- Variety of signage and traffic control devices
- Fixed, variable street lighting
- Cross walks, lane delineators, curb cuts, bike lanes, grade crossings
- Hydrants, sidewalks, etc.
- “Buildings” (fixed and movable)
MCity Test Facility features:
Like many automotive proving grounds, MCity is a closed facility. Due to safety and confidentiality concerns, access is limited to those involved in testing and research.
AV Test Site – State of Iowa**
The Iowa Automated Vehicle Proving Ground and National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) are key to the State of Iowa’s AV efforts. Located in Iowa City, Iowa, the proving ground includes 2,000 acres, various race tracks, abandoned urban airport landing strip, and the Iowa AVPG corridor (I-80 to I-380). FY17 funding included $4,314,513 in Federal and $2,772,286 in non-Federal funds.
The facility is managed by the Iowa City Area Development Group, along with The University of Iowa, (a world-class research university with global-leading experience in Human Factors, Vehicle Safety, and Computer Simulation and Modeling), and the Iowa DOT. “Springfield” is NADS’ virtual automated vehicle proving grounds environment that covers more than 285 square miles.
The Iowa DOT’s multi-phase project, “Automated Vehicle Technologies Project,” is currently laying the foundation for the future of transportation and mobility in Iowa. The project focuses on portions of I-80 and I-380 from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City (the Iowa AVPG corridor) and leverages technology to create a more efficient and safe road network.
Initially, the project will map the I-380 and I-80 corridor with high-definition mapping, developing real-time predictive traffic maps to allow transportation officials the ability for automated and connected vehicles to better communicate with the infrastructure and other vehicles. Iowa offers:
- Access to virtual testing at the University of Iowa National Advanced Driving Simulator
- Access to on-road testing throughout Johnson County
- Access to closed course testing
- Strategic linkages to a host of engineering resources, insurance providers and transportation fleets
- Research collaborations with the University of Iowa
- Help with Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and project development
- Access to public and private investment capital
These two facilities are world class facilities devoted to vehicular research, including autonomous research. Nexmobi will not compete directly with these sites because we do not have the resources to replicate their assets, and we do not have renowned research institutions nearby that can support cutting-edge vehicular research.
Rather, Nexmobi is focused on developing expertise in two specific initial areas. One, we will focus on testing interoperability of different autonomous vehicle platforms in a real-world environment. Once the different manufacturers of autonomous vehicles have proven the safety and reliability of their vehicles in closed sites such as MCity and NADS, they must be able to show their offerings are able to communicate with other autonomous vehicles from other providers. No other locations are working on testing interoperability. Peoria has the opportunity to establish a presence in this area.
Two, we will provide turnkey autonomous vehicle systems for businesses to experiment and test with autonomous vehicles in a real-world environment quickly and less expensively than what they would be able to do elsewhere. Other test locations expect the companies wishing to test autonomous vehicles to provide their own hardware and software. This assumption makes sense if the customers are the largest automotive OEMs and tech companies active in the field. But there are many smaller companies who would like cheaper and quicker access to the rapidly expanding field of research without incurring the cost and time to build their own inhouse capacity. These companies can come to Peoria for their needs.
But Nexmobi should clearly understand how other AV test sites are structured, how they operate and whether they are ultimately making money (or funded through the public purse). These two AV test sites are located close by with comprehensive suite of services. We should, and will, study them for lessons that are useful for our own business model.
Disclaimer: This article was based on publicly-available source materials we believe to be accurate. Any content not clearly attributed to its original source is unintentional.