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Road Map of Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Priorities in Ann Arbor


Michigan Mobility Transformation Center

The Michigan Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) is a government-industry partnership formed at U-M to transform global mobility by dramatically improving transportation safety, sustainability, and accessibility. MTC draws on U-M’s broad strengths in engineering, urban planning, energy technology, and information technology to accelerate progress in diverse areas such as connected-vehicle systems, driverless vehicles, shared vehicles, and advanced propulsion systems. The focus of the MTC is a model deployment that will allow researchers to test emerging concepts in connected and automated vehicles in both off-road and on-road settings. Through interdisciplinary cooperation, MTC will also address the many social, political, regulatory, and economic issues inherent in the transition to new mobility technologies and systems.


The 2013 Critical Issues in Transportation highlighted pressing transportation issues facing the nation including lack of reliability and resiliency of the transportation system; significant deaths and avoidable injuries; large-scale, unsustainable impacts on energy, the environment, and climate; and the fact that innovation in passenger mobility services and in public-sector infrastructure lags far behind that in the private sector.  Congestion is particularly a key problem facing urban communities.  The annual cumulative travel delay experienced by the average commuter is 38 hours, and the cost of congestion is more than $120 billion in the U.S., nearly $820 for every commuter.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30 percent of driving in business districts is spent in a hunt for a parking spot, and the agency estimates that almost one billion miles of driving is wasted that way every year.  Development and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV) has the potential to address many of these critical issues.  The Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) is taking a leadership role in promoting smart and autonomous vehicles through research and demonstration.

While AV technology is being advanced by Google and automakers, little has been done to identify the best applications of AV in addressing mobility needs and critical transportation challenges.  While AV could serve many functions such as taxis, public transit vehicles, delivery vehicles, service for elderly, and designated “driver” service; the question of which of these applications has the opportunity to be most beneficial is yet to be explored.  The goal of the Third Pillar of the MTC, Ann Arbor Automation, is “to design, build and operate an integrated network of 2,000 connected, coordinated, driverless, and shared vehicles serving 10% of the trips in Ann Arbor.”  Achieving this goal requires an understanding of the potential deployment opportunities and their impacts.


The objective of the proposed research is to collaborate with MTC and industrial partners to develop a road map for Ann Arbor Automation deployment that best meets the mobility needs of our community and also enhances sustainability. The set of best outcomes will provide the basis for an Ann Arbor Automation deployment road map.

An interdisciplinary team from University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Mechanical Engineering (ME), and the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS) has been formed to address the complexity of this integrated assessment.  The team has expertise in travel behavior and demand modeling, vehicle design and control, life cycle assessment of sustainability metrics.  The team will leverage its expertise and AV related research projects with the Automotive Research Center (ARC), Ford Motor Company, and a Global Challenges for a Third Century project to support the goals of Ann Arbor Automation.  Given the potential for the greatest transformation, the research will focus mainly on Level 4 (Full Self-Driving Automation) vehicle automation as defined by the NHTSA, although utilization of vehicles with lesser degrees of automation (Levels 2 and 3) may be considered for certain applications or in an early rollout stage.   Three integrated research activities have been designed to develop recommended AV applications for Ann Arbor Automation: 1) analysis of travel demand (trip types and patterns), 2) analysis and simulation of vehicle configuration options (e.g., size and powertrain) and 3) sustainability analysis of the AV deployment opportunities (e.g., energy, emissions, cost, travel time).

University of Michigan - Transportation Research Institute
Research Areas