An old-school American automaker, not Google or Apple, is first to try out a fully self-driving car at a 32-acre fake city designed by the University of Michigan to put the futuristic vehicles through their paces.
Ford said it is testing an autonomous Fusion at the Mcity facility, which has streets, traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks and other features laid out to simulate the conditions a self-driving car would face in the wilds of America's roadways.
"Testing Ford's autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies," Raj Najir, Ford's vice president for global product development, said in a statement. The company said it has been working on cars that can do without humans at the wheel in one form or another for more than a decade.
Ford unveiled its autonomous Fusion in December of 2013, and now says it has moved beyond research to an "advanced engineering" phase with its driverless vehicles.
While Google has been testing a limited number of its self-driving cars on suburban streets (including one that was pulled over by police on Thursday in Mountain View, California), the University of Michigan facility was built in partnership with companies like GM and Honda to present a more controlled environment.
"We are pleased to welcome Ford as the first automaker to use Mcity to test autonomous vehicles," Peter Sweatman, director of the university's Mobility Transformation Center, said in a statement.
"Mcity offers a unique, real-world test environment that will help Ford accelerate development of its autonomous technology while building on its existing research collaboration with University of Michigan."