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Mcity, the new test facility at University of Michigan. A number of other test facilities are slated for development in various parts of North America.

By Jeff Sanford

Ann Arbor, Michigan -- August 14, 2015 -- The Automated Vehicle Symposium 2015 took place in Ann Arbour Michigan recently. The conference explores the issues around the rapidly emerging automated vehicle (AV) sector. Collision Repair magazine spoke with Susan Spencer, Senior Associate, at the Canadian Automated Vehicles Center of Excellent (CAVCOE), for her views on the conference.

She notes that the conference coincided this year with the opening of a new AV testing facility at the University of Michigan known as Mcity.

The $6.5 million Mcity is a 32-acre landscape that simulates urban and suburban roads. The area has traffic signals, intersections, crosswalks, circles, tunnels, construction sites, buildings and store fronts. It is a place where AVs can be tested with no worry about hitting an actual real person.

According to Spencer there are still many issues to work out yet in terms of self-driving cars.

“There is a lot of work to do. How do you instruct car to do things in certain situations? These are the questions developers are asking. There is a really interesting conversation taking place among developers,” says Spencer.

Michigan is not the only region looking to be a place where AVs are developed. Regions all around North America are racing to set up similar test facilities. It seems every city wants to be in on the ground floor of a newly emerging industry. Virginia has designated 70 miles of roads, ranging from hilly to flat, for autonomous car testing. Florida has built a mini suburb outside Florida Polytechnic University. These regions want to attract the jobs and tax revenue that this new industry will spin off in the years ahead.

This is an industry that is rapidly growing. CAVCOE just released its latest newsletter. Some of the points found in that publication indicate just how rapidly the AV sector is coming to be. Some of the signs:

- The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class will come with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) including a Distance Pilot Distronic function that “automatically maintains the correct distance from vehicles in front of it by adjusting the car’s higher desired speed to that of a slower-moving vehicle.”

- Singapore is expected to authorize an on-demand driverless taxi trial on public roads.

- The Ontario government is looking for bidders for the second phase of funding for the Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle (CVAV) Program, which encourages business and academic institutions to develop and commercialize innovations in CVAV technologies.

- Adam Jonas, the Lead Auto Analyst at Morgan Stanley, is making a name for himself with an aggressive prediction that “driverless cars will be here in three years.”

- A study by KPMG states that insurers are unprepared for the disruption caused by self-driving cars. The majority of property/casualty insurers do not expect autonomous or self-driving vehicles to have a real impact on their auto insurance business for another decade. As a result the companies have “not adjusted their business models to prepare for the disruption.” Many insurer executives also believe that government will slow the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

- BestMile, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, has announced a mobile app for on-demand mobility that can request a fully-autonomous shuttle operating on the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) campus. The shuttles are low-speed, electric, fully autonomous mini-buses.

- VisLab, a privately held Italian company based in Parma, Italy, has developed computer vision and intelligent control systems for automotive and other commercial applications called "Porter." The program guided an autonomous vehicle on a 13,000 km autonomous trip from Italy to China in 2010.

- High-precision maps are essential for highly automated driving. Freeways and freeway-like roads in Germany are to be digitized for automated driving by the end of 2015.

What does all of this mean for the collision repair industry? This is hard to say. A Brookings Institute study finds that the advent of AVs won’t “eliminate accidents,” but the new technologies “will produce better results than humans.”


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