Google's prototype driverless car started road tests this summer. Google's prototype driverless car started road tests this summer. Google's prototype driverless car started road tests this summer. (Photo: Google)

Driverless cars are taking off this week

An American university built an entire town for research, and major car manufacturers are making major moves.

It's been quite the week for autonomous vehicles (that's driverless cars to a good many of us).

The University of Michigan announced it's doing its part to help the state maintain a central place in the U.S. auto industry. This week it revealed it has built a town – yes, a town – called Mcity that will act as a research center for driverless cars. It covers 32 acres of the university's campus and will simulate everything a driverless car could face in the real world.

It includes approximately five lane-miles of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, street lights and obstacles such as construction barriers. If this sounds like it is meant to evoke small-town America, well, it is. That's a convenient detail considering that driving through a small town usually requires waving to all the friends and neighbors you encounter on your route.

One of Mcity's partners in the project is Nokia, whose mapping software, Here, was also making headlines this past week with news that auto giants Audi, BMW and Daimler are planning to shell out major dollars to acquire it.

Here captures location content such as road networks, buildings, parks and traffic patterns. This technology is essential to operating driverless cars, acting as an automated guide.

Mobileye, an Israeli company that manufacturers collision warning systems and vehicle tracking systems, showcased the considerable development of its yet-to-be-released autonomous car-driving system on Bloomberg.

The company, which has been around since 1999, designed the first forward collision warning system to be approved by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By 2014 its technology was implemented in 160 different car models.

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